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.
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.
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.
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.💖💖
My second cooking class/pop supper club was a lot of fun. The students were eager to learn how to make Indian food. Everyone enjoyed the food, wine pairing and the camaraderie generated by the community getting together to help a good cause.
Here is the Indian Menu that my students and I prepared. Just like the last event, it was delicious, gluten free and Keto friendly. Vegan, vegetarian and pescatarian options were available to include a wide variety of dietary preferences.
AUBERGINE KACHRI is my dad’s favorite appetizer. My mom used to make it for him frequently. It consists of spicy slices of sauteed eggplant served with a yogurt mint sauce. For the full recipe, please click on the link above.
Indian cooking takes some advance preparation. Some of the students joined me the Friday before the event to help me with the prep and learn some extra tips.
The eggplant has to be sliced and salted overnight to draw out excess moisture. Drawing out the moisture allows the eggplant to cook evenly and not absorb excess oil. This is a tip I learned from my mom. Below is Rose, one of my students, showing the eggplant we sliced and salted.
The cooking class began on Saturday at noon. The first thing we did is dry the eggplant slices and season them with my Indian Spice Mix.
We let the seasoned eggplant slices sit in the frig for a couple of hours, to let all the spices marry, before pan sauteing them.
The cooked eggplant slices were topped off with a dollop of yogurt mint sauce made with My Mom’s Yogurt. A fresh mint leaf was added to each slice for a finishing touch.
photo by Gabby Silva
photo by Gabby Silva
KACHUMBER is chopped salad made with cucumber, tomato, onion, mint, cilantro, lime juice and Indian spices. In the above photo, you see it plated with a small papad. Papad is a thin, cracker-like crisp made with lentils. It serves as the Keto friendly crouton element.
The salad was the last thing we made so that we could serve it super fresh. In the photo below, you will see the components of the main course staying warm in crockpots, while we prep the Kachumber Salad.
I also made a yogurt dressing, with toasted cumin and other spices, to add a creamy element to the Kachumber Salad. I will post the full recipe as soon as I get a chance.
THE MAIN COURSE was a Trio of Indian Curries
I want to clarify what a curry is. Curry just means something cooked in a sauce. In India, every region has its own variety of curries. Indian cooks do not use curry powder. Curry powder is a British invention. Each curry is made from scratch with its own blend of base aromatics and a layering of spices throughout the cooking process.
I decided to make three unique curries, both to accommodate a variety of dietary needs and to show my students different ways of making curries.
Starting from left to right, the photo above shows:
Riced Cauliflower Pilaf, made with freshly grated turmeric
Extra Kachri Slices, in case anyone wanted an additional appetizer
Vegan Curry, with chickpeas for protein
Monkfish Curry, with a coconut lime base, for the pescatarians
Oxtail Curry, my unique signature dish
Diners had a choice of enjoying the curries with a Brown Basmati Rice Pilaf (sitting in the pot on the back burner) or a Keto friendly, Riced Cauliflower Pilaf. Click on the link for Buckwheat Pilaf to see the basic recipe to make any kind of pilaf.
I am a pescatarian, who leads a Keto Lifestyle, so I served myself a plate of riced cauliflower pilaf and topped it with monkfish curry.
It was really delicious, if I do say so myself. Monkfish is considered to be poor man’s lobster. It tasted like a decadent lobster curry with a great depth of flavor, and was the first one to be finished. I will definitely make it again and post the recipe.
SAFFRON PISTACHIO RASMALAI is a classic Indian dessert, and my husband’s favorite. Each round ball is a cheesecake bite sitting in a creamy, flavorful sauce.
Indian desserts tend to be very sweet, so my challenge was to figure out a way to make is Keto friendly. As I was mulling over how to make a low carb version, I recalled a memory from when I was 10 years old.
I was visiting my great grandmother and I watched her make Rasmalai from scratch. She used just a little bit of honey in place of sugar. She told me that my great grandfather had sugar problems, so she made desserts with very little sugar, but a lot of flavor.
I did my best to recreate her recipe. I am going to show you how I did it. The trick is to use very high quality ingredients and lots of spices that will give the illusion of sweetness. The spices I used in this case are saffron, fennel powder and cardamom.
My friend Kathy, came over on prep day to learn how to make Paneer.
Once the Paneer is ready, break it up with a fork, add the spices and ground up pistachios.
Mix everything together and gently knead it into a ball.
Cut the ball into 2 inch pieces, and shape into discs.
Make a pistachio honey syrup scented with saffron and rose water. I used only one tablespoon of raw local honey in the entire pan of syrup.
The syrup is used to cook the cheese balls and infuse them with flavor. They are simmered for 10 minutes with the lid on. During the cooking process the cheese balls will double in size.
The cooked cheese balls are cooled and firmed up in an ice bath.
While the cheese balls are cooling, make the cream sauce. The sauce consists of cream, half &half, one tablespoon of honey, pistachio powder, saffron and rose water.
Place the firmed up cheese balls in the cream sauce. We made these on prep day so that the cheese balls could become saturated with the cream sauce overnight.
Just before serving, I plated the RasMalai by spooning two tablespoons of Malai (cream sauce) into a small bowl. Then I placed two RasGullas (cheese balls) in each bowl and topped them off with pistachios and goji berries for a little color.
I was proud to make this dessert. I felt like my great grandmother was there helping me. After my husband ate this RasMalai, he said he would never eat the store bought version again. My great grandmother’s version turned out so sublime, with a profound but delicate flavor. I will do a full recipe post when I make it again, but for now I have posted the above photos to give you an idea of how the RasMalai was made.
I want to thank my husband for his help and his expert wine pairing.
I also want to thank my guests for their support, and Gabby Silva for taking such great photos.
My next event will be in September for Hunger Action Month. Tresha Silva, the director of the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry, and I are planning to hold the event at the Bastrop Convention & Exhibit Center.
I will keep you posted. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions or comments please let me know in the comment section below. I would love to hear from you.
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 “CookingWithLoveAndSpicesFor 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.
Here is the menu for the September 28th, 2019 cooking class/pop up supper club.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The pesto that topped the cauliflower was easy to make, fragrant and oh so yum!!!
My friend, Melinda thought it smelled divine.
Photo by Gabby Silva
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.
Photo by Gabby Silva
Photo by Gabby Silva
Photo by Gabby Silva
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.
Photo by Gabby Silva
Photo by Gabby Silva
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.
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.
Photo by Gabby Silva
Photo by Gabby Silva
BERRIES AND FENNEL SCENTED ZABAGLIONE
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.
Photo by Gabby Silva
Photo by Gabby Silva
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!
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.
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.
Assembling the skewers is very simple. Gently pierce the center of the ravioli and push it to where the blue decoration starts. Then pierce the stem end of the blistered tomato placing it on top of the ravioli. Arrange on a platter to resemble an American Flag.
Let me know what you think in the comment section. We are off to the party now. Hope you are all having a good time with your friends and family. !!!
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.
Photo by Terry Hagerti
Photo by Karen Kahan
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.
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.
I really enjoyed making the soup with Leilani. She was so eager to learn and help.
My dad helped me serve the soup.
It was a HEARTWARMING family and community experience. I look forward to doing it again next year.