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2019 Tax Information

We know you came here because you have one important question...  

Will the library offer free tax preparation assistance this year?

Unfortunately, the answer to that question is no.  Usually we have volunteers from AARP come in to provide the free tax preparation.  They do not have enough manpower to continue to offer this service.  So here's what we've done to help you with your tax self-preparation.

Tax Forms

We have paper copies of basic tax forms avaiable at some of our locations.  Give your preferred branch a call ahead of time to see if they have the forms you need.

You can also view and print tax forms directly from the IRS and Louisiana Department of Revenue websites.

Books


J.K. Lasser's Your Income Tax 2019
prepared by the J.K. Lasser Institute

Step-by-step expert guidance walks you through the forms, calculations, and deadlines to help you file your taxes without the headaches. New changes including tax laws, IRS rulings, court decisions, and more are explained in plain English, backed by examples of how they apply to individual taxpayers like yourself. Explore your options in terms of deductions, income shelters, and planning strategies to maximize your savings and keep more of your money—without wading through volumes of dense tax code. This comprehensive yet accessible guide is your handbook for making your tax filing for 2018 easier than you thought possible.


J.K. Lasser's 1001 Deductions & Tax Breaks 2019
by Barbara Weltman

A complete and thorough guide to reducing your tax burden. By listing every possible deduction and credit available to individual taxpayers, this book can help you achieve substantial savings on your 2018 tax return. Updated and expanded to cover new and changing tax law, this edition also includes an e-supplement covering the latest developments from Congress and the IRS to keep you fully up-to-date.


J.K. Lasser's Small Business Taxes 2019
by Barbara Weltman

Written in a straightforward and accessible style, this reliable resource offers a complete overview of small business tax planning and provides you with the information needed to make tax-smart decisions throughout the year. Focusing on strategies that help you use deductions and tax credits effectively, shield business income, and maximize other aspects of small business taxes, this practical guide will show you how your actions in business today can affect your bottom line from a tax perspective tomorrow.


Tax Savvy for Small Business:  A Complete Tax Strategy Guide
 (published 2019)
by Frederick W. Daily

This book teaches business owners what they need to know about taxes for their small business and how to make the best tax-related decisions in all aspects of their business. It is completely updated to cover the new tax law effective in 2018. has information on all aspects of taxes for a small business owner, from how to choose the best business entity to tax deductions, recordkeeping, business losses, payroll taxes, fringe benefits, retirement plans, and much more. It provides valuable tax-related strategies and information to help small business owners save money and run their business without running into trouble with the IRS.


475 Tax Deductions for Businesses and Self-Employed Individuals (published 2019)
by Bernard B. Kamoroff

Are you paying more taxes than you have to? The IRS is certainly not going to tell you about a deduction you failed to take, and your accountant is not likely to take the time to ask you about every deduction you're entitled to. As former IRS Commissioner Mark Everson admitted, "If you don't claim it, you don't get it. That's money down the drain for millions of Americans." This invaluable book, updated to reflect changes in tax law, not only lists the individual items that are deductible--from Internet domain name costs to theft losses--but also explains where to list them on your income tax form. "Tax law isn't easy," the author explains, "but this book is." The twelfth edition will be completely updated to include new changes in tax law, a chapter on home-based businesses, and include a special "jump out" highlights in the A-to-Z listings for any deduction that has special rules for home-based businesses.


The EY Tax Guide 2018
The EY Tax Guide 2019
 is currently on order so place your hold today!
Ernst & Young Tax Guide Series

Professional guidance for DIY tax prep.  Fully updated to reflect the latest changes to the law, this new 2018 edition cuts through impenetrable tax codes and IRS rulings to give you the answers you need quickly and easily. Whether you're a homeowner, self-employed entrepreneur, business executive, or senior citizen, you'll discover the best tax strategy for your particular situation. At-a-Glance reference sheets give you quick answers to common questions regarding new laws, breaks and deductions, and how to avoid common errors.

Free Online Tax Prep

MyFreeTaxes.com brought to you by United Way and H&R Block

Not afraid to prepare your own taxes?  MyFreeTaxes makes filing easy!  United Way has partnered with H&R Block to offer their premium online federal and state tax preperation service, for free, to individuals who made $66,000 or less last year.

Free Tax Preparation Services

Not quite comfortable preparing your own taxes?  No problem!  VITA provides free federal and state tax preparation for individuals who made $55,000 or less last year.  How it works:  taxes are prepared by IRS certified volunteers at strategic locations throughout ten parishes in Northwest Louisiana.  Locations are open February 1 through April and some have specific hours and requirements for tax help.  For a full list of locations and hours, visit UnitedWay or click here.

Shreveport/Bossier Locations
Caddo Community Action Agency -- David Raines
1625 David Raines Boulevard, Shreveport, LA  71107  |  318.425.2401
Open Monday-Friday, 1:00pm-4:00pm

Caddo Community Action Agency -- St. Vincent
4055 St. Vincent Avenue, Shreveport, LA  71108  |  318.861.4808
Open Tuesday-Thursday, 9:00am-12:00noon (first 12 people will be seen)

Highland Center Ministries VITA Site
520 Olive Street, Shreveport, LA  71104  |  318.673.4440
Open Thursdays, 10:00am-1:00pm & 4:00pm-7:00pm; Tuesdays, 10:00am-1:00pm; Saturday, February 09, 9:00am-1:00pm & Saturday, April 06, 9:00am-1:00pm with the last person taken at 12:00noon on these Saturdays (first come, first served)

Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church -- Sadies Arms
5340 Jewella Avenue, Shreveport, LA  71109  |  318.426.7832
Open Monday, Tuesday, & Thursday, 5:00pm-8:00pm (by appointment only)

New Horizons Independent Living Center
1111 Hawn Avenue #A, Shreveport, LA  71107  |  318.671.8131
Open Monday-Friday, 9:00am-3:00pm (by appointment only)

Southern Hills Recreation Center -- AARP
1002 Bert Kouns Industrial Loop, Shreveport, LA  71118  |  318.673.7818
Open Monday-Thursday, 8;30am-3:00pm

Barksdale Air Force Base -- Active Military
2nd Bomb Wing Tax Center, Barksdale AFB, LA  71110  |  318.456.4765
Open Monday, Wednesday, & Friday (by appointment only) and Tuesday & Thursday, 8:00am-11:00am & 1:00pm-4:00pm

Governmental Agencies

Internal Revenue Service falls under the US Department of the Treasury.  

  • Federal tax filing information here.

Louisiana Department of Revenue serves as the tax collection agency for the state of Louisiana.

  • State tax filing informaiton here.

Weekly Update (06.12.19)

by Andrea Gilmer, Community Engagement Librarian

In some ways I wish I’d thought of this topic back in May, but it seems we’ve been celebrating mothers for about 58 years longer than we have fathers so I suppose I’ll just have settle for reminding everyone not to forget those special mothers in their lives before I slide on into a bit of the history of Father’s Day.

According to the (brief) research I completed before writing this column, we’ve only officially celebrated Father’s Day nationally since 1972. That isn’t to say there had never been celebrations in honor of fathers before and, in fact, the first known celebration of a Father’s Day that I found in the United States was back in 1910.

And so, in honor of Father’s Day which is now celebrated on the third Sunday in June, I thought I would mention a few things you could do for the special fathers in your life. For example, who wouldn’t love a home-cooked meal? Personally, I always appreciate when someone cooks for me (or heck, throws together food of some kind that I didn’t have to help make). If you’re struggling for some recipe ideas there’s always A to Z World Foods where you can search by ingredient in case the father you’re cooking for is especially fond of specific flavors.

If cooking isn’t your thing, you could always do a bit of research into your father’s family history on Ancestry or Family Search, and our History Center is amazing at helping get you started on your journey. And if none of the suggestions I’ve made so far are particularly in your wheelhouse, how about planning a family movie day? Check out some of Dad’s favorite movies and plan to spend the day relaxing in good company?

However you end up spending your Father’s Day this year, I hope you take a minute for those special dads who helped raise you, embarrass you, and generally helped shape you into the person you’ve become. Thanks for everything, Dads, you’re one in a million!

Coming Up: 
Aulds         742-2337  
Wednesday, June 12 @ 4:00pm – LEGO Club, ages 6-12                                                                                                                                   

Benton       965-2751
Friday, June 14 @ 10:00am – Baby Laptime, ages 0-2

Bossier Central       746-1693   
Thursday, June 13 @ 11:00am – Science Tellers present “Aliens: Escape from Earth”, all ages
Saturday, June 15 @ 10:00am – Owl Experience with Walter B. Jacobs Memorial Nature Park, all ages
Tuesday, June 18 @ 2:00pm – Teen Tuesday: Space Graffiti, ages 13-17

East 80        949-2665  
Thursday, June 13 @ 3:30pm – Pages in the Park @ Tall Timbers Park, all ages

Haughton          949-0196  
Thursday, June 13 @ 4:30pm – Creative Minds: Father’s Day Craft, all ages

History Center         746-7717 
Saturday, June 8 @ 1:00pm – Second Saturday Screenings: Saving Mr. Banks (PG-13), all ages

Plain Dealing       326-4233  
Friday, June 14 @ 2:00pm – Universe of Stories: Moon Day Craft, ages 3-8

Tooke        987-3915  
Friday, June 14 @ 2:00pm – Summer Experience: All About the Moon, ages 0-12

What’s New:

  • A Fire Story by Brian Fies (Graphic Novel; Book)
  • I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Memoir by Malaka Gharib (Graphic Novel; Book)
  • I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver (YA Fiction; Book)
  • The Key to Happily Ever After by Tif Marcelo (Fiction; Book)
  • The Mausoleum by David Mark (Fiction; Book)
  • Planet Earth is Blue by Nicole Panteleakos (Children’s Fiction; Book)
  • The Scholar: A Novel by Dervla McTiernan (Fiction; Book)
  • Tomb of the Ancients: A House of Furies Novel by Madeleine Roux (YA Fiction; Book)
  • When the Light Went Out by Bridget Morrissey (YA Fiction; Book)

Weekly Update (06.05.19)

by Andrea Gilmger, Community Engagement Librarian

Memorial Day having just passed, a day on which we remember and honor our fallen military personnel, I thought it fitting to spend this week on one of my history-themed columns while incorporating a few lesser-known holidays/anniversaries (or those that we may not know the full meaning behind).

To start, June 6 marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Take a minute on Thursday to remember the soldiers who stormed the beaches of Normandy, France on this day in 1944 in one of the largest amphibious invasions ever attempted. With over 160,000 troops involved, combining American and Allied soldiers, this invasion ended with a break in the Nazi defenses and marks what many consider to be a turning point in World War II.

The following day, June 7, just happens to be National Donut Day. This day is celebrated on the 1st Friday of June every year and gets a mention in this column for two reasons. The first is its ties to military history in the form of the “Donut Dollies” that I featured in a previous column (November 2018 specifically); for those who missed that column, Donut Dollies traveled with troops in “Clubmobiles” serving donuts, providing conversation, and generally helping to boost morale during World War I and II. The second reason to mention this holiday is that many donut shops offer a free donut to customers who stop in! Check it out and see if your local supplier is participating this year.

The final holiday to get a mention in this week’s column is Flag Day. Celebrated on June 14, this holiday was officially established in by President Truman in 1949 when signed a law declaring National Flag Day would be observed on the 14th of June – meaning that we celebrate it but it’s not a federal holiday that we might get a day off for. This holiday actually has origins much further back in our history, however. President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation establishing Flag Day as an annual national event in 1916; prior to that a man by the name of Bernard J. Cigrand wrote and spoke often on the topic of establishing a day on which we could celebrate the birth of our nation’s flag. It is due to his efforts that Chicago organized a celebration back in 1894 on June 16. And going back just a bit further into history to explain: why June 14, anyway? It was on June 14, 1777 that Congress approved the official flag of the United States which at the time consisted of 13 stars arranged in a circle set on a blue field with 13 stripes of alternating red and white.

Coming Up: 
Aulds         742-2337  
Monday, June 10 @ 2:00pm – Science Tellers present “Aliens: Escape from Earth”, all ages

Benton       965-2751  
Saturday, June 8 @ 2:00pm – Teen Scene, ages 13-17

Bossier Central       746-1693   
Saturday, June 8 @ 2:00pm – Trivia: The Office/Office Space, ages 18 and up
Monday, June 10 @ 9:30am – Café Connect, ages 18 and up
Wednesday, June 12 @ 11:00am – Wiggle Wednesday, all ages

East 80        949-2665  
Thursday, June 13 @ 5:30pm – Bellevue Movie Classics Club, ages 18 and up

Haughton          949-0196  
Saturday, June 8 @ 3:00pm – Book Social: A New Book Club, ages 13-17

History Center         746-7717 
Saturday, June 8 @ 1:00pm – Second Saturday Screenings: Saving Mr. Banks (PG-13), all ages

Plain Dealing       326-4233  
Saturday, June 8 @ 2:00pm – Marshmallow Constellations, ages 6-12

Tooke        987-3915  
Saturday, June 8 @ 1:00pm – Craftastic “Galaxy Slime”, ages 6-12

Community Engagement
Friday, June 7 @ 7:30pm – Twilight Talkie @ Norton: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, all ages

Summer Experience 2019

What is Summer Experience?

You may be more familiar with the term "summer reading program."  We decided to change the name of our summer program because we felt that "summer reading program" didn't really capture the full scope of what we do here at Bossier Parish Libraries over the summer.  With dozens of innovative programs and events happening for all ages, your summer at Bossier Parish Libraries really is much more than reading--it's an experience!

When is it?

May 24-July 31.  Registration is NOW OPEN.  You can begin logging your reading hours May 24 and the last day to log your reading time is July 31.

Who can participate in BPL's Summer Experience program?

Babies.  Toddlers.  Preschoolers.  Children.  Teens.  Adults.  Everyone!  Reading is important for everyone in the community, regardless of age, and reading is a skill that grows with practice throughout a lifetime.  It's free, easy to do because you read whatever you like at your own pace, and it's a fun, easy, and zero-risk way of showing your support for your local library and its services.  Everyone is encouraged to participate--we have programs and rewards for all ages from 0-100+  Ages zero and up...really?  Yes, really!  If your child is too young to read, the books you read to them count!

Is a library card required to participate?  Nope.  Everyone is welcome to join us...the only time you'll need a library card is to check out library materials.

How does it work?

  1. Choose your branch and register online (registration opens April 22).  This will be the branch where you claim your prizes so choose the best option for you.
  2. Keep track of your reading time by logging hours (online or through the app).  If you don't have access to a smart-device or Internet, simply use a paper reading log you can get from your chosen branch.
  3. Get prizes when you meet reading goals!

What are my reading goals?

  • Ages 0-5 (Read-to-Me Readers)
    • Half Goal = 2 hours
    • Full Goal = 4 hours
    • Can continue up to next level (8 hours) for a bonus prize
  • Ages 6-12 (Independent Readers)
    • Half Goal = 4 hours
    • Full Goal = 8 hours
    • Can continue up to next level (12 hours) for a bonus prize
  • Ages 13-18 (Teen Readers)
    • Half Goal = 6 hours
    • Full Goal = 12 hours
    • Can continue up to next level (16 hours) for a bonus prize
  • Ages 18+ (Adult Readers)
    • Half Goal = 8 hours
    • Full Goal = 16 hours
    • Can continue up to next level (20 hours) for a bonus prize

How do I claim my prize?

Once you have met your half or full goal you will be notified online or through the app.  Simply stop by your chosen branch to pick up your prize.
(If you don't have access to the app or internet, simply bring your paper log into your chosen branch to claim your prize)

What books am I required to read?

Anything!  You can read any books you'd like.  And yes, audiobooks count.  Audiobooks aren't cheating.  Let's say it again, once more with feeling...AUDIOBOOKS AREN'T CHEATING.  You know what else isn't cheating?  Graphic novels...that's right, we said it.  Parents, guardians, caregivers...lend me your ears...that Goodnight Moon you've read for the 437th time in a row?...yep, that counts too!  Keep track of the time you spend reading to others, and log it on your own account beause that counts toward your own reading goals too.  Everybody rejoice! 

      Why are summer library programs important?

      Summer library programs encourage children, youth, and families to read.  Traditionally summer reading programs are designed to encourage elementary-aged children to keep reading during summer vacation.  Preventing the "summer slide" continues to be the main objective of our summer library program.  For many families with elementary-aged children, the public library is the only community space available during the summer months where they can access free educational and cultural enrichment activities and programs.

      Benefits of summer library programs for children include:

      • Children are motivated to read.  Reading for fun during the summer helps children maintain or improve their skills so that they are ready to start school again in the fall.
      • Children develop positive attitudes about reading books, and the library by giving them rewards for meeting reading goals.
      • Children maintain their reading skills during summer break from school.  Studies have shown that children who read during the summer are more able to maintain their reading skills and that children who see their parents read, or who read with their parents, generally score higher on standardized tests.
      • Children have access to experiences that further their sense of discovery.
      • Children have access to experiences through which they can learn to work cooperatively.


      Watch this quick video to learn about the summer slide and how to keep your kids learning!

       

      How do I sign up?

      Register online here or copy and paste the following link in your browser:  http://bossierlibrary.readsquared.com
      You can also download the ReadSquared app (available for free in the Apple or Google Play store) to register and track your reading hours.  If you don't have access to the Internet, a smart phone, or have trouble registering, you can stop in at your local branch and they can help you.  Keep in mind that the branch you choose will be the branch you will log your reading hours for, and will visit to claim your prizes, so choose the branch that is most convenient for you.  NOTE:  If you participated in our summer program last year, and had an online account, your account still exists, you just need to log in and choose the correct age range to reactivate for Summer Experience.

      Join our Facebook Group for up-to-date Summer Experience news, programs, activities, and updates!

      Curbside Pickup Service

      Did you catch a ride on the struggle bus? We got you fam! We've all been there. Did your kid just fall asleep and you can't possibly risk waking them? Maybe you crushed it at leg day and now they're jelly. Maybe your kids have been little monsters all day and you don't want to be seen in public with them. Has it been one of those days and you just can't even? Maybe you have the flu and are going to be stuck in bed for the next 3 days and you really really want to catch up on Game of Thrones. Introducing Curbside Pickup at our Central, Aulds, and East 80 locations! If you're having a little trouble getting out of your vehicle for whatever reason, simply give us a call when you get here to pick up your hold and we'll bring it out to you! This service begins FEB 19 and will be offered as a 90-day trial and we need your feedback so let us know what you think!

      The Basics:

      • Service begins Februrary 19th as a 90-day trial at our Central, Aulds, and East 80 locations
      • To be ued for holds pick-up only with a limit of 10 items
      • Park in the reserved space, call the branch to let them know you're there to pick up your hold, and have your photo ID handy for verification by staff
      • Service ceases 30 minutes prior to closing to all staff to complete closing procedures
      • Give us feedback!  We hope to eventually offer this service at all of our locations so we are relying on your feedback to let us know what you think!  What works?  What doesn't?

       

      Book Talk with Tom

      Patient Zero:  a Joe Ledger Novel by Jonathan Maberry

      Jonathan Maberry has written many novels.  I discovered him through his young adult series about zombies; the Benny Imura books.  Many of us around the library enjoyed that series.  In case you're interested, the books are Rot & RuinDust & DecayFlesh & Bone, and Fire & Ash.  There is also a book of short stories that go along with the series called, Bits & Pieces.

      All of the books in this series can be obtained through your friendly local library, as can the book I'm actually reviewing, Patient Zero.

      According to many reviews I read on Patient Zero, this is his best book, but I don't agree with that.  This book is excellent, but I don't think the reviewers have read enough Maberry books.

      I love a good zombie book, and this is one of the best I've ever read.

      This is a Zombie/Anti-Terrorist/Sci-Fi novel.  The origin of the zombie outbreak is attributed to intentional bio-engineering.  The terrorists have cooked up a brain-wasting parasitic (sort of like Mad Cow disease but this is Mad Person disease isntead.  Not be confused with a brain-eating amoeba).  Once infected...you die, a lot of really important parts of the brain are destroyed along with most organs but, after you're dead, you come back (Zombie!).

      Once back, you feel no pain, you become very violent, hungry, and you want to eat your neighbor's grandson or whoever the nearest living person is.  The smallest bite from an infected zombie passes the disease on until everyone is wanting to eat someone's grandson.  The only way to stop this is to isolate the infected and kill every zombie...there is no cure.

      This is what the terrorists want, complete chaos, and terror.  They have a plan that will destroy everyone on the planet except for a select few (you'll have to read the book to see what this plan is).

      Someone has to stop this madness from spreading worldwide.

      Let me introduce you to Joe Ledger...

      Joe was an Army ranger and a Baltimore police detective before he was picked to head the Alpha team of the secretive DMS, the Department of Military Sciences.  DMS takes the jobs Homeland Security is unable to handle---like bio-engineered zombies.  Joe knows how to fight and take a punch, he is a Jujitsu virtuoso, a superior marksman, a natural leader, and a warrior.

      Joe was brought to the attention of "Mr. Church," the head of DMS, after watching a video of a warehouse raid full of terrorists that Joe headed up.  Mr. Church is a code name, no one knows what Mr. Church's real name is.

      It was Joe's fighting style, and lack of hesitation or show of fear that gave Mr. Church the idea that he may be the right man to head the Alpha team.

      This all makes Joe seem like a typical tough guy from any James Bond novel, but Jonathan Maberry has a way of building a character from the bottom up.  We learn why Joe is the way he is and what he has gone through in his life to make him that way.  Maberry has made Joe a very likable protagonist to root for.

      Jonathan Maberry is known for fleshing out his characters, making them real to us, and believable as a good friend.  This novel is so fast paced, it is hard for most authors to construct the characters in as little time as is permitted in this page-turner.

      So, if you like a good horror/zombie/anti-terrorist story, this is one of the best to go to.  There is even a little love story going on!

      Enjoy!
      -Tom

      Book Talk with Tom

      Kill Creek by Scott Thomas

      Kill Creek is the perfect novel for Halloween.

      I would not recommend reading this novel on a Kindle or any other electronic device.  If you are reading in a dark room, you cannot see past the glowing screen, and as you read, you will know there are things out there in the dark...inside the room with you, just out of sight.

      I enjoy a good haunted house novel (there are many taking up space on the bookshelves in my house), and Kill Creek is one of the better ones.

      Here's what's going on:

      Four best-selling authors who specialize in different sub-genres of horror are invited to spend halloween night in a well-known haunted house, out on Kill Creek.  The house is called the Finch House and sits at the end of a long and winding road somewhere in Kansas.  Of course, the house is in the middle of nowhere, and no one has occupied it since one of the Finch sisters was found hanging from the tree just off the front porch decades ago.

      The House was built in 1859 by a man who single-handedly brought the wood and nails together to construct a beautiful home for his wife and himself.  Shortly after the house was finished, a large gang of men with torches and pitchforks showed up and killed the man and woman because his skin was light and her's was dark.  They hung her from the tree near the front porch.

      There were those who tried to live in the house after the murder of its builder and his wife, but they never lasted very long; something sent them running out of the house and far away.  The last couple fled in 1961.  In 1975 the Finch Sisters, a pair of sixty-eight year-old twins, bought the house from the county.

      Rachel and Rebecca Finch became the last owners of the house, and it became known as the Finch House from then on.  The Finch Sisters were known as "odd birds" to the people of Lawrence, Kansas, the town a few miles away from the house.

      Rachel rarely left the property, and Rebecca, who uses a wheelchair to get around, never left her bedroom on the third floor.  Rebecca Finch died two years after the house was renovated; then, years later, at the age of ninety-one, Rachel was found hanging from the same branch as the wife of the house's builder.

      By the time the writers are invited to spend Halloween night in the home, it has built up quite the reputation as one of the most haunted houses in the country.  The county had built a six-foot high fence topped with razor wire surrounding the property.  They discovered  that the third floor had been bricked off from the rest of the house at some point.  And yet, people constantly reported seeing lights pass from room to room, even in the window of the third floor bedroom.  Those who ventured near the house saw many things, that later they would convince themselves they never saw.

      Our visiting writers will not be so lucky.

      -Tom

      We have ordered this book for the library and you can place a hold; but if you can't wait that long will be happy to request it from InterLibrary Loan.

      The Best Thing I Never Ate; episode 2

      Fresh Figs
      by Mandi Johnson, Associate Director of Community Engagement & Food Hobbyist

      Inspired by Food Network’s, The Best Thing I Ever Ate, where celebrity chefs tell you their favorites from around the world, I decided to start a series I am calling The Best Thing I Never Ate (and yes, the grammatical inconsistency is killing me but “The Best Thing I’ve Never Eaten” just doesn’t have the same ring to it).  A couple of times a month I will select a food/ingredient I have never eaten before and will prepare it.  I’ll be blogging about these kitchen adventures here and will also be posting them to our Instagram.

      I moved to a cozy little place back in October so this is my first summer here and I've learned a few things:  (1) my back patio doesn't get enough sun for my tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers to grow; (2) extreme heat makes algea grow in the pool; (3) fresh figs are amazing--this one learned thanks to this lovely communal fig tree that is housed in our complex.

      Until this point in my life my only experience with the humble fig was in the form of preserves or Newton.  That's it.  I'd never eaten a fresh fig.  One day I plucked one from the tree and popped it in my mouth and was instantly enamoured with the subtle velvety sweetness.  Inspired, I set out to discover all the different ways I could use fresh figs.  I did some research on our food database A to Z World Food (see how I learned from my mistake last time about doing advance research?).

      Here's what I learned:  Figs are native to the Middle Eeast and Asia and are one of the oldest cultivated food with documentation of them dating back 10,000 years with their peak season in late summer.  Figs are an excellent source of vitamins and antioxcidents and can be eaten raw, cooked, or dried and they pair well with cheese, vinegar, meats, and their natural sweetness makes them a popular dessert fruit.

      Armed with way more information than I ever knew I needed about figs, I decided on four different preparations for my kitchen adventure and invited a fellow-foodie over to join me.

      I started with the obvious--the sweet deliciiousness that is a fig newton; named such after Newton, Massachusetts and began mass production  by the New York Biscuit Company--which you might know as Nabisco.  Didn't know you were going to get a history lesson today did ya?  We're a full-service institution over here at Bossier Parish Libraries; that's just how we do.  All the recipes I found used dried figs or fig preserves--which wasn't really what I was looking for.  So I set out to make my own--what can I say, I'm a kitchen renegade.  So without further ado:

      Homemade Fig Newtons (or alternatively, Oatmeal Fig Bars if you so desire)

      Ingredients
      3-4 cups fresh figs, stems removed
      1 small/medium lemon
      3 cups rolled oats
      2 cups all purpose flour
      1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
      1 teaspoon baking powder
      1/2 teaspoon salt
      2 sticks butter, melted (that's right...I said TWO STICKS OF BUTTER)
      3 egg whites

             

      Instructions
      Halve the figs in a bowl and squeeze the juice of lemon over them.  Stir to coat.  Set aside.

      Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.

      In a large bowl, stir together oats, flour, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt.

      Add melted butter and egg whites to dry ingredients.  Stir until combined.  This will take approximantely 89 years but hey, you'll have pretty impressive biceps and triceps in the end...at least in your stirring arm.

      Press half of the oat mixture into the baking dish until the entire bottom is covered.  It should be easy enough without sticking to your fingers but if you have trouble just use some wax paper or do like my granny taught me and just spray some cooking spray on your hands.

      Use a slotted spoon to transfer figs to a food processor (leaving the lemon juice behind).  Process until smooth.  Pour fig puree over on top of the oat mixture in the baking dish.

      Press the remaining half of the oat mixture over the fig filling.  I couldn't figure out how to do this without squishing the filling out so I just made small balls with the dough and pressed them flat into a "cookie round" and place that on top until the entire top was covered.

      Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown and cooked through (I did 35 and it was perfect).

      Voila...homemade fig newtons.  This makes enough for about a dozen or so depending on how big you cut them...which is a perfect amount because...

      These were delicious and well-received here at the office.

             

      I picked my first batch of figs when my 11-year-old niece was staying with me for a week.  She loves to cook and get creative in the kitchen and she had an idea for a little amuse-bouche (that means "mouth amuser" or a little treat to tingle the tastebuds--it's French).  The plus side was I already had everything in my pantry/fridge to make these so we figured, why not?

      Amuse-Bouche Avec Figue

      Ingredients
      Crackers (we used Ritz)*
      Laughing Cow Swiss Cheese triangle*
      Honey
      Walnut halves
      Fig, halved
      *I'm not being paid to endorse Ritz or Laughing Cow; although if their people called my people we could discuss their delicous buttery cracker and smooth velvety cheese

      Instructions
      Build the cracker by spreading some cheese on the cracker (you can probably get 3-4 crackers per triangle).  Drizzle with honey.  Top with walnut and fig half.  The perfect balance of salty and sweet with the rich cheese and the crunch from the walnut.


      There, now doesn't that look amusing for your mouth?

      At this point I wanted to delve into the more savory applications for ye old fig.  Inspired by a couple of menu items I've seen around town, I decided to make a Fig & Pig pizza and a pan-seared pork chop with a red wine and fig reduction (reduction is really just sauce--depends on how fancy you're feeling).

      Fig & Pig Pizza

      Ingredients
      Pizza dough, prepared according to instructions (or you could just be like me and buy the already done dough; I like the thin and crispy)
      Olive Oil
      Balsamic Vinegar
      Prosciutto (which is just thinly sliced dry-cured Italian ham)
      Canadian Bacon (for extra flavor--it's like a world tour in pizza form)
      Figs, quartered
      Asiago & Parmesean cheeses
      Parsley (which, let's be honest, tastes like nothing but it sure is pretty)

      Instructions
      Brush the prepared dough with olive oil.  Drizzle with balsamic vinegar.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Top with thin slices of prosciutto and canadian bacon.  Top with figs (however many you want).  Sprinkle with chopped parsley and more cheese.  Bake according to directions but it will probably be somewhere around 425 for 9 minutes.

             

      As our Tour de Fig comes to a close I have one more recipe for you.

      Red Wine & Fig Reduction

      Ingredients
      (pork chops for searing before you make the sauce)
      1 Tablespoon oil or pan drippings
      1/2 shallot, minced
      1 teaspoon thyme
      1/2 cup good quality red wine (Merlot works well)
      1 cup beef stock
      About a dozen fresh figs
      1 Tablespoon butter

      Instructions
      So the first thing you need to do is cook the pork.  I recommend seasoning with salt and pepper.  Sear on both sides in a hot cast iron skillet then transfer to 425 degree oven for about 20-30 minutes until meat thermometer reads the internal temperature anywhere from 145-160 degrees.


      Taken from www.pork.org ...like that's a legitimate website...I have mixed feelings about this.

      Now that your pork chops are done, remove them from the skillet and place them on a baking pan and tent with foil so they won't get cold.  Place skillet over medium heat and add oil or use pan drippings.  Add the shallot and saute until it begins to soften, about 2-3 minutes.

      Pour in the wine.  Simmer until it is reduced by half, about 5-6 minutes.

      Add the stock and thyme to the pan and continue to simmer until the mixture reduces by about two-thirds or until there are bubbles across the entire surface of the pan.

      Place half the figs in a food processor and puree.  Add puree and remaining quartered figs to pan and stir well to combine.  Simmer about 30 seconds more.

      You can either spoon the reduction sauce over the pork, OR because this is Louisiana and we like to smother our meats in the south, you can add the pork chops back to the skillet and let the sauce coat them.

      I served my pork chops with roasted brussel sprouts and baked sweet potatoes.

      Whelp that's all folks...hope you've enjoyed this little journey of the humble fig.  Pro-tip:  since figs have a short season, you can freeze them for use throughout the year.  Keep the stems on them, wash, allow to dry, and spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet that you've lined with wax paper and freeze.   Once figs are frozen  transfer into a zip-loc freezer safe bag.  When you're ready to thaw, simply take as many as you need and let sit at room temp for about 30 minutes to an hour.  BAM!  We're so extra.

      The Best Thing I Never Ate; episode 1

      Rainbow Chard
      by Mandi Johnson, Associate Director of Community Engagement and Food Hobbyist

      They say the first step is admitting you have a problem and I’ll admit it—I’m a bit of a food-tv junkie.  I wouldn’t say I’m a foodie or even an amateur home cook but I am definitely a food-hobbyist.  Is that even a real thing?  I don’t know—let’s just go with it.  I enjoy spending my weekends in the kitchen experimenting with new recipes and culinary creations.  This, of course, has led me down the path of becoming a food-television junkie.  I especially love competition cooking shows and find myself actively participating in commentary much like one might expect from a sports fan during the big game.  Fortunately my dog is only slightly judgmental of my quirky habit. 


      I'm not judging you but I'm totally judging you

      As much as I enjoy this outlet for learning all about food and cooking (if you’re ever in need of a trivia partner who has a wealth of useless knowledge on this subject, I’m your girl) I’ve concluded that I need to significantly expand my culinary experience.  Inspired by Food Network’s, The Best Thing I Ever Ate, where celebrity chefs tell you their favorites from around the world, I decided to start a series I am calling The Best Thing I Never Ate (and yes, the grammatical inconsistency is killing me but “The Best Thing I’ve Never Eaten” just doesn’t have the same ring to it).  A couple of times a month I will select a food/ingredient I have never eaten before and will prepare it.  I’ll be blogging about these kitchen adventures here and will also be posting them to our Instagram.

      Rainbow chard is something I have heard about often while consuming food television.  I had never cooked or eaten it before but it sure is pretty—a leafy green vegetable with colorful stems in vibrant oranges, pinks, and yellow hues.

                

      I have heard that you can use chard the same way you would use spinach or kale--in that you can eat it raw in salads or cooked.


      Pretty much sums up my opinion of kale

      I utilized our free food database offered through Bossier Parish Libraries to do my research.  A to Z World Food offers thousands of international recipes, hundreds of fascinating culture and ingredient articles, and other essential culinary resources to bring international cuisines directly to you where you are.  Here’s what I learned:  chard is a leafy green vegetable in the beet family, and is at its peak season in the summer.  Chard originates from the Mediterranean and has a slightly salty, bitter, and earthy flavor.  See this is good information to have and I have to admit, dear readers, that I did not do my research in advance.  That’s just bad librarianing—and a lesson learned because I did, in fact, add salt to my chard as I do with any other greens but friends let me tell you—it was not delicious.

      Next time I will do my research beforehand to avoid #KitchenFails such as this.  Be sure to check out A to Z World Food for all your cooking concoctions.

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