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.
What did you like best about the event(s) that you attended last year?
What could I do to make the event more enjoyable for you?
For the next event, would you like Indian Cuisine or Italian Cuisine?
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:
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.
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.
As to what cuisine to serve next time, most people said Italian. So Italian it will be.
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 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.
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
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.
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.
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!