Joie Hendrix, 72, and Joyce Caldwell, 80, were eager to get the party started.
The women met soon after each came to live at John Knox Village. They quickly became inseparable. They attend Weight Watchers meetings together, exercise together and, along with their husbands, Rex Hendrix and Howard Caldwell, socialize together.
On a chilly Friday night in February, the women were hosts of a potluck supper for roughly a dozen seniors living at the 420-acre retirement community in Lee's Summit. Each guest volunteered to cook one of the recipes featured in The Star's Eating for Life series. The results were evaluated on taste, appearance and ease of preparation.
The colorful presentation and variety of flavors presented received high marks and only minor tweaking from the cast of cooks.
"There's a nice variety of dishes," said Caldwell, who prepared the Chicken with Broccoli and Rice Casserole.
"Mine was so easy to make. All I had to do was stir it around," said Hendrix, who made the colorful Roasted Fish and Vegetables. "And it's only 344 calories per serving."
Although many of the dishes were familiar comfort foods, some of the ingredients and flavors were new.
Louise Lee, who made the Cherry Rice Pudding for dessert, had never cooked with soy milk before and found the use of brown rice for added fiber a new twist.
"It was easy to make," she said. "I'd never used soy milk before, and the brown rice is not as soft as white rice."
Elsie Trost had never used quick-cooking barley but was pleased at how fast the Chicken and Vegetable Soup with Barley went together. "This was a fun one. It came together so quickly and had a really nice flavor... Some soups need to simmer a long time to have any flavor," she says.
The seniors gathered at the potluck were generally health-conscious.
"We're trying to be on a diet," Jo Anne Boyd said. "We're going on a cruise, and we want to lose weight." She and her husband, Robert Boyd, are planning a cruise through the Panama Canal.
Despite their goal to lose some weight, they already eat a fairly healthy diet on a daily basis. "We don't eat many fried foods, and we try to eat lots of vegetables and fruits," she said. "We drink lots of water and we try to eat high-fiber cereals. We don't eat that much meat."
Wanda Chinnery made the Spinach Frittata. She liked the flavors but was concerned about the margarine and cooking spray in the recipe. As Chinnery points out, some margarines contain trans fats, a type of unhealthy fat that is created when vegetable oil is put through the hydrogenation process. Chinnery says she will adapt the recipe by using olive oil, a heart-healthy fat. If calories aren't an issue, then it's a smart substitution.
And Joyce Caldwell admits she made a substitution of her own.
"I cheated. I put in a little bit of vermouth," Caldwell says. "I have a similar chicken and broccoli casserole that calls for vermouth. I asked Joie what she thought."
"I said, `Go ahead!' We have a life, and we're living it," Hendrix says.
To reach Jill Wendholt Silva, food editor, call (816) 234-4395 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.