Event Planning Survey For The Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry

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EVENT PLANNING SURVEY FOR THE BASTROP COUNTY EMERGENCY FOOD PANTRY

Hello.  I hope everyone is keeping safe and as positive as possible during this difficult time that we are all going through.

Last year I did 2 cooking class/pop-up supper club events to raise funds for The Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry.  Thank you to everyone who attended.  I really appreciate your support.

This year, Tresha Silva, the director of the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry, and I were planning to do a larger event in September for Hunger Action Month.  Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 situation, all future plans are up in the air.  I plan on doing another event in my home when all this is over.

To prepare for the next event, I have designed this survey so I can get an idea of what people would like for the next cooking class/pop-up supper club.

  1. What did you like best about the event(s) that you attended last year?
  2. What could I do to make the event more enjoyable for you?
  3. For the next event, would you like Indian Cuisine or Italian Cuisine?
  4. Do you have any particular dish you would like to learn?

I would appreciate it if you would leave me your answers or ideas in the comment section.

I have already surveyed many of the students and guests who attended last year’s events.  Here is a tabulation of the survey results:

  1. What people liked most about last year’s events was that, not only was the food and wine pairing amazing, but that it was served along with great company and conversation.  People really appreciated the atmosphere of camaraderie and good will while preparing and eating supper together.
  2. When I asked people what I could do to make the event more enjoyable, they asked if I could make some time for breaks during the cooking class portion of the event.  I will make sure we have breaks next time.
  3. As to what cuisine to serve next time, most people said Italian.  So Italian it will be.
  4. When I asked if there is a particular dish they would like to learn, most people just wanted me to pick the dishes.  They liked the uniqueness and creativity of my menu.  That brought a smile to my face.  I usually create the menu based on what is fresh and available.  I also provide a wide variety of dietary options.

I spoke with Tresha Silva to ask her how things were going at the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry during this current health and economic crisis.  She told me that the need now is greater than ever.  During the first week of the Covid-19 Pandemic crisis there was an 80% increase in the number of people who needed food assistance as compared to this time last year.  Many people were having to ask for assistance for the very first time in their lives.  Its heart breaking.

The food pantry lines have been longer than ever before.  The food pantry staff and volunteers have been working long hours.  The pantry has modified their service so that they can provide curbside distribution.  Also they have been working with the Bastrop County Long Term Recovery Program by assigning volunteers to deliver food to seniors, since they are the most at risk during the Covid-19 Pandemic.

I am looking forward to be able to do another event to support our food pantry, but if you are able to make a donation at this urgent time of need, it would be greatly appreciated.

God Bless!!!  This too shall pass.  We will all get through this together. 💕

 

My Grandma’s Yoghurt-A Story of Hope

I want to share with all of you, a yummy blackberry parfait and a story of HOPE, to help bring a smile as we go through these difficult times.

Blackberry Yoghurt Parfait Copy

Hope all of you are keeping safe during this world wide pandemic.  I have been keeping busy by catching up on all the tasks that I had not found time to do.  I have been losing track of the days as they pass by.  I just realized that I have not even taken a step out of my house in 10 days!!!

Ten days ago, when I went shopping for supplies so that we could shelter in place, the shelves in our local supermarket were bare.  There was not even one bottle of milk.  I asked my husband to go to a local dairy farm, The Jersey Barnyard, to see if he could find some milk to bring home so that I could make yoghurt.

I usually make yoghurt weekly, from the best milk that is available to me.  I still have the live yoghurt culture that my mom started.  I love keeping her culture alive because then I always have a part of her with me. 💕 Click on My Mom’s Yogurt, to get step by step instructions on how to make yoghurt.

My husband brought back a gallon of Raw Jersey Cow’s Milk from The Jersey Barnyard.  This milk had just come fresh from the cow.  Jersey cows have the best milk.  Jersey milk has a higher fat content (4.9%) than Holstein milk (3.7%), so it makes a creamier yoghurt.  In addition, Jersey milk has the original A2 protein instead of the mutated A1 protein.  A2 protein is easier to digest than A1 protein.   Lately, I have been using A2 milk from the grocery store, but this local, raw milk is even better.

It reminded me of the milk I used to go get with my grandma when I was a little girl.  We used to go to the dairy very early in the morning.  My grandma would inspect the cows.  She would especially look at their eyes to make sure they were clear, which meant that the cow was healthy.  Once she picked the cow she wanted milk from, she would give her bucket to the farmer to fill up with fresh, hand-stripped milk.  Straight from the cow into the bucket.  When she made yoghurt from this milk, it always had a thick layer of cream on top.  That creamy top layer was my absolute favorite.  I loved being the first one to break into a batch of freshly made yoghurt.

To my delight, when I made yoghurt from this farm fresh raw milk, it came out just like my grandma’s.  You can see the thick layer of cream in the photo below.

Grandma's Yoghurt Feature

Here are side by side photos of yoghurt made from the Promise Land Milk (left) and Raw Jersey Cow’s Milk (right).

You can see the difference in the two.  The raw Jersey milk yoghurt has a thick layer of cream on the top.  This is the creamiest, most flavorful yoghurt.  My husband has decided that this is the only yoghurt he wants from now on.  So the milk bought because there was none on the shelves, during this pandemic, turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  It resurrected a childhood pleasure moment that I shared with my grandma.  I consider it A SIGN OF HOPE.

I used it to make a delicious low carb Blackberry Parfait.

Blackberry Yoghurt Parfait Copy

I layered my grandma’s yoghurt with blackberries, pistachios and my homemade chai spice mix.  You can substitute a mixture of fennel and cardamom powder for the chai spice mix.  The parfait tasted similar to a dessert that I used to eat when I was little, but this one has no sugar.  It fits my Ketogenic lifestyle.

Let me know if you have any STORIES OF HOPE.  We could all use a little cheering up😊

A big thank you to my Nani Ji (grandma) and my mom.  I will love them always.💖💖

Indian Cooking Class/Pop Up Supper Club in Support of the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry

I am preparing for my second cooking class/pop up supper club to support the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry.  The event is being held on September 28th, 2019.  The event name is “CookingWithLoveAndSpices For A Cause.  The feature image shows my new event logo.  The center of the logo is a Lotus Mandala in dedication to my mom.  My mom’s name was Kamal, which means Lotus flower.  The Lotus flower is a symbol of divine beauty, purity, enlightenment and self-regeneration because it raises from the muddy waters unstained.  Its unfolding petals suggest the expansion of the soul.

Let me know in the comment section what you think of my logo.

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Here is the menu for the September 28th, 2019 cooking class/pop up supper club.

Cooking Class 2 Menu

This time I am featuring elegant Indian Cuisine paired with Texan wines from Messina Hof.  My husband decided to stick with the Messina Hof wines because they pair well with Indian Food.

I am doing this event on September 28th because September is Hunger Action Month-a month where people all over America stand together with Feeding America and the nationwide network of food banks to fight hunger.  It’s a month to take the problem of hunger personally, and then be moved to take action on being an active part of the solution to end hunger in our own communities.  My goal for this event is to have fun while working to end hunger in Bastrop County.

My first cooking class/pop supper club in July, was a trial event at home.  This event is bigger and will be held at the cooking school house on the ranch.  Tickets will be sold on Eventbrite starting on September 6th.

For a cause event

There will be 20 spots open.  You can chose to come to the cooking class and/or dinner.  Last time, some people only wanted to come to the dinner and that is just fine.

Indian food takes a bit of prep work, so I am doing the event over a two day period.  Friday, September 27th will be prep day.  We will start prep at 3 pm.  Prep is open to cooking class students who would like to help and also learn a few extra cooking tips.  We will also have 2 volunteer staff from the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry to help us.  Then on Saturday, September 28th cooking class will be from noon to 4 pm.  Cocktails will be served at 6 pm and dinner will be served at 6:30 pm.

I decided to have a two hour break between cooking and cocktails in case anyone wants to take a rest or wants to have time to freshen up before dinner.  During my first event, some people requested a break so I am making accommodations for that.   In any case, it will give us extra time if we run behind.

Again, the menu is both delicious and gluten free.  The appetizer, Aubergine Kachri, is a dish my mom used to make, especially for parties.  It is one of my dad’s favorite dishes.  The sauce for the dish is made with My Mom’s Yogurt.

There will be a trio of curries to suit different dietary needs.  Or you can sample all three if you like.

I am very fortunate to have a local vendor sponsor me this time.  The Bastrop Cattle Company produces grass fed, chemical free beef.  They have been generous enough to donate the oxtail for the oxtail curry.  I have made this for other’s in the past with rave reviews.  Oxtail curry is one of my signature dishes, so I was very excited to be able to get such high quality product for my cooking event.

The pilot event in July was very successful and fun.  This one will be a bit more work, but I have help from Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry volunteers.  I will let you know how this one goes.

Bye! for now 🙂

 

Results of My First Cooking Class/Pop Up Supper Club in Support of the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry

My first cooking class/pop up supper club was a lot of fun and a big hit.  The students loved the cooking class.  Everyone enjoyed the food, wine pairing and the goodwill generated during the event.  The best compliment I got was that the food, wine and service were like a five star restaurant, but the camaraderie was the best thing of all.

I am thankful to my guests for their goodwill and donations to the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry.  We were able to raise $600 to help our community.  Not bad for a first trial run event.

OUR NEXT EVENT WILL BE ON SEPTEMBER 28th.  This time the menu will be Indian Cuisine.  I will post the menu by the first week of September.  The event will be open to 20 people and will be held in my cooking school house on my ranch.

Here is the Italian profile menu that was prepared and served for this event.  It was all delicious, gluten free and Keto friendly.  I was also able to provide vegan and vegetarian options.

BCEFP Event 2

THE AMUSE-BOUCHE

AUTUMN DAL–I served a sample of the soup that I made for the 2019 Bastrop County Empty Bowl Project.

THE APPETIZER

ROASTED CAULIFLOWER–topped with shaved Italian cheeses, pine nuts and a drizzle of homemade pesto.  I have not yet posted this recipe on my blog, but I will soon.

The cooking class students enjoyed making and eating this dish.  It was a class favorite.

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The pesto that topped the cauliflower was easy to make, fragrant and oh so yum!!!

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My friend, Melinda thought it smelled divine.

By the way,  Melinda has been very supportive of my cooking endeavors.  She made me promise that when I do my first cooking class, I have to call her so that the event can be scheduled at a time when she will be able to attend.  True to my promise, she was the first one to be invited.

A NO WASTE TIP–when we prepped the cauliflower, we saved all the stalks and leaves.  We used them as part of the base for the stuffing in our main course.  I wanted to show that no part of the vegetable has to go to waste. I always use it all one way or the other.  In this case I used it in the soffritto that makes up the stuffing for the Dover Sole.  The cauliflower stalks taste like a cross between celery and fennel, so they make an aromatic addition to the soffritto.

 

THE SALAD

MIXED GREENS–with house made balsamic vinaigrette.  I bought some organic greens at grocery store, but the ones you see me washing were grown by my hubby.

The main reason that I wanted to make a salad was to show my students how easy it is to make salad dressing.  It is basically 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar, an emulsifying agent, salt, pepper, herbs and spices.  Here I used Tuscan Extra Virgin olive oil, White Balsamic vinegar from Modena, soy sauce as the emulsifying agent, thyme and my Italian Spice Mix.

I will write a detailed post on the basics of making salad dressings in the future.  I never buy commercial salad dressings because most of them have ingredients that are not good for you.  Also the home made dressings are easy to make and taste so much better.

THE MAIN COURSE

STUFFED DOVER SOLE–with artichoke hearts and onion, served on a bed of BUCKWHEAT PILAF surrounded by BLISTERED TOMATOES.  On the right you see the vegan option, where roasted cauliflower was substituted for the fish.

I picked this dish for my first cooking class because it was the first dish I posted when I started my blog.  I was so lucky to find wild fresh caught Dover Sole at the store.  For the full recipe please click on the links above.

Here are a few more photos from the cooking class.

 

THE DESSERT

CC 1 Zabaglione Whip
Photo by Gabby Silva

BERRIES AND FENNEL SCENTED ZABAGLIONE

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Zabaglione is an Italian custard made with egg yolks, sugar and sweet Marsala wine.  The eggs came form our own chickens, making this custard extra special.  I played around with the traditional zabaglione recipe to find a way to cut down the amount of sugar used.  The classic recipe calls for a table spoon of sugar for 2 egg yolks along with a table spoon of sweet Marsala.  I was able to cut the sugar down to 1 tea spoon by adding a pinch of fennel powder. In the future, I will write a post showing the recipe step by step.

THE TIP HERE IS THAT FENNEL POWDER ADDS THE ILLUSION OF SWEETNESS SO IT ALLOWS YOU TO DECREASE THE AMOUNT OF SUGAR.  The fennel powder also adds great flavor.  I use this same trick in my marinara sauce.  An Indian cooking trick carried over to Italian Cuisine.  I really like that.

I was a bit nervous because this was my first cooking class.  However, everything went smoothly.  All the food was timed correctly.  We started the class at 1:30 with 5 students.  The class ended right on time at 5:30.  The dinner guests arrived at 6 pm and my husband served everyone a cocktail.

Above you see him making his Pear Martini.  It is a very popular drink.  The pears come from our tree.  If you want to see the recipe please click on the link.

Each course was perfectly matched with a Texas wine from Messina Hof.

 

Thanks to everyone who helped to make it a great event!

CC 1 Group Photo
Photo by Gabby Silva

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tips on Storing Spices

Hello everyone.

I have been meaning to write a post on how I store my spices.  Yesterday, Yummy Italy posted a photo of her under the counter spice rack on Instagram.  Her words, not mine–It is SUCH A MESS!  She asked for good organizing ideas, so I decided to take some photos and write this blog post in addition to posting the photos on Instagram.

I buy spices everywhere I go, but the bulk of my spices are bought at an Indian grocery store in Austin.  I use spices so often, that I buy them in large quantities, especially if I can get a good deal on them.  I buy my spices whole and keep the unopened bulk bags in the freezer.

Storing Spices Freezer

The photo above is my freezer filled with fennel seeds, cardamom pods, cloves, cumin seeds and more.  Whole spices are stored in the freezer.

Chillies, salts, cinnamon sticks and powdered spices are stored in my cool air-conditioned pantry.

Storing Spices Pantry

I mostly make my own spice mixes, but there are a few MDH brand spice mixes that I buy.

Once I open up a bag of spices, I transfer the contents into a mason jar with a rubber sealed gasket.  I keep these mason jars in a dark cabinet in my kitchen.

Storing Spices Dark Cabinet

The mason jars have bulk spices that will last me a few months.  The spices stay fresh because they are not exposed to air, moisture, heat or light.

For my everyday use, I have two spice racks with small bottles.  The first rack has the spices I use most frequently, so this one sits on my kitchen counter.

Storing Spices Rack

The second spice rack has the spices that I use less frequently, so it is kept in a kitchen cabinet with doors that can be closed to protect the spices from light.

Storing Spices Feature

This cabinet also contains salts, peppers, and spice blends.  In the photo, you can see the canister of garam masala.  I kept the canister because I like the seal and label on it, but the masala inside I made myself.

My spice bottles are not labeled because I have had these spice racks for 30 years and I know what each spice is, but you can Of course label them.  I still have one of the boxes of bottles I bought 30 years ago.  You can see that it came with labels which I never used.

Storing Spices Accessories

I am sure you can find these spice accessories on line.  They are many different configurations of spice racks.  These little bottles are my favorite for storing small quantities that can be used up quickly and not go stale.  When one of these bottles goes empty, I refill it from my bulk supply.

Since I cook with LOVE and SPICES, I have to have plenty of both on hand.  💖😄

 

 

Cooking Class/Pop Up Supper Club in Support of the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry

I am finally doing my first cooking class/pop up supper club to benefit the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry.  This is event is a trial run for a small group at my  home.  I am opening a cooking school on my ranch in September and am planning to do a larger event for Hunger Action Month.

As stated on  feedingamerica.org,  “September is Hunger Action Month-a month where people all over America stand together with Feeding America and the nationwide network of food banks to fight hunger.  It’s a month to spread the word and take action on the hunger crisis, and dedicate ourselves to a solution.”

My trial event is this Saturday, July 27th 2019.  I will be featuring an Italian menu paired with Texan wines from Messina Hof.

BCEFP Event 2

I am happy to say that the event sold out before I even had a chance to send out e-mail invites.  Believe it or not, besides being delicious, the whole menu is gluten free.  The main course is the first recipe that I posted on my blog, Stuffed Dover Sole.

I am in charge of the food and my husband is in charge of the drinks.  In addition to the wine, he will be making cocktails and mocktails.  Some of our guests don’t consume alcohol, so we want to accommodate everybody.

Tresha Silva, the director of the food bank, has kindly offered to help me serve.  I am very excited that I finally managed to make time in my life to do this.  There is a lot of work to do between now and the event.  I will let all of you know how it went.  I have never done a cooking class/pop up supper club before.

WISH ME LUCK !!!

My First Event–helping to raise money for the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry (photo by Karen Kahan)

Every year the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry (BCEFP) hosts the EMPTY BOWL PROJECT to raise funds for our local food bank.  It is their biggest fundraiser for the year.  Local restaurants and caterers volunteer to make soup to be served at the event.  People in the community buy tickets to taste the soups and vote for their favorites.

In addition, local artists create ceramic bowls that are part of a silent auction.

All proceeds from the silent auction and the tickets go directly to our emergency food pantry.  The goal for this year was to raise $30,000.  I am very happy to report that we exceeded our goal.  700 people attended at $20 a ticket–so that was $14,000.  The rest came from the silent auction, donations, and business and individual sponsorships.  It was so much fun!!!  Thank you to everyone who contributed.

This year, I was asked if I would like to participate by serving my Autumn Dal (split mung beans with kale).  I have never made soup for 700 people, so I was a bit nervous if it would come out right.  But I went for it and said yes.  If you read my welcome page, you will see that I promised that there would be some community projects associated with this blog.  I have always wanted to give back to my community, so I was thrilled to have my first opportunity to help.  I will be doing more projects with the BCEFP.  I will blog about them as I do them.

The timing of the 2109 EMPTY BOWL PROJECT was very special to me.  It just so happened that my family was visiting me from Chicago during the week that the event was taking place.  The Empty Bowl Project turned into 4 generations of soup for me.

BCEBP DEDICATION The recipe started with my Nani-ji (grandmother), then my mom, then me and now I am passing it onto my niece, Leilani.  She wanted to help me make the soup and I was grateful for her help.  Leilani painstakingly spent two hours cutting up the greens.

BCEPB PREP LK

I really enjoyed making the soup with Leilani.  She was so eager to learn and help.

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My dad helped me serve the soup.

BCEBP DAD

It was a HEARTWARMING family and community experience.  I look forward to doing it again next year.

Vegetables From Down The Road

On Saturday, my husband went down the road and brought home these beautiful vegetables from our neighbors, Fruitful Hill Farm.  We a lucky to have such nice neighbors.

I was inspired to make 6 dishes.  I did a marathon cooking session which included creating, testing, cooking and photographing the 6 dishes.  I will be posting one dish per week for the next six weeks.

Here is a list of the dishes I created:

  1. CURRIED BABY TURNIPS–TOPS AND ALL
  2. SWEET POTATO & KALE TIKKIS (CUTLETS)
  3. CARROT TOPS & CORIANDER CHUTNEY
  4. CARROT TOPS & PARSLEY PESTO PASTA
  5. COLLARD GREENS & CHICKPEA STEW
  6. MUSTARD GREEN SAAG PANEER

Nothing went to waste.  I used every part of the vegetables.  I also made Roasted Carrots but I did not list it because it is a recipe I have already posted.

I had so much fun doing this marathon cooking session.  I am looking forward to sharing the dishes with you.  Please look out for them.  I hope you like them.

A big thanks to the folks at Fruitful Hill Farm for growing the vegetables!!!