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

Cooking With Love and Spices is so excited to be able to do another event in support of The Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry. The event details are shown in the flyer below. All the recipes, except for the surprise Halloween cocktail, will be posted ahead of the event. I am doing this because many of the students, who attended the previous cooking classes, requested that I post the recipes in advance.

In May of 2020, I did an event planning survey, to find out what my students and guests would like for the next event. Most people wanted the next event to be Italian cuisine. So I have created an Italian menu with a Halloween flair.

We will start off with cocktails and crostini to honor the Italian tradition of Aperitivo. Aperitivo is a pre-dinner drink and small snack. My husband will be making his Chili Cherry Bourbon and an additional Halloween cocktail. The “ghoulicious” Halloween cocktail will be posted on Saturday October 31, 2020, on Halloween Day Of Course. 😈

The cocktails will be served with a very easy to make Cheesy Cranberry Pistachio Crostini.

Next we will be having an Antipasto (appetizer) consisting of Italian Stuffed Vegetables. The vegetable will vary depending on seasonal availability, but I will post the recipe for stuffed squash on October 10, 2020 to show the basic recipe for stuffing vegetables Italian style.

For the Insalata we will be having Golden Beet Salad topped with crispy goat cheese croutons. If you want to see the full recipe, click on the link above. This recipe was posted on January 13, 2018.

Following the salad, will be the Primo, which means first course in Italian. It usually consists of a risotto or pasta. We will be having Pumpkin Gnocchi with Collard Greens. This recipe was created in 2017 for our family’s Thanksgiving Dinner. For the full recipe, click on the link above. This recipe was posted on December 13, 2017. I just realized that was my dad’s 84th birthday. He loved that Pumpkin Gnocchi 😊

After the pasta course we will be having the Secondi, which means second course in Italian. It is the main protein course which consists of meat, poultry or fish. I created a very special gourmet Berkshire Pork Piccata for the main course. The Berkshire pork is supplied to us by our neighbors at Peach Creek Farm. Since I am a pescatarian, I don’t eat pork, so I will also have a fish piccata option. The full recipe for the Pork Piccata will be posted on October 17, 2020.

All of the above courses will be paired with local Texas Italian style wines from Duchman Family Winery. My husband will be selecting the wines for each course. We like supporting our local producers. For the last two events, we served wines from Messina Hof. This time we decided to work with Duchman.

Last but not least, to celebrate the Dolce Vita (sweet life), I created a unique dessert called Cranberry Tiramisu. It is made with Texas South Wind Cranberry Fruit Wine. The full recipe will be posted on October 24, 2020.

I am very proud of the Cranberry Tiramisu. I did a test low carb recipe. I invited a friend to come over and taste test it. If I do say so myself, it turned out so yummy that I just had to eat it. As written in my post entitled, “My Personal Story of Recovery,” I have been leading a ketogenic life style since February of 2019 so that I can control my blood sugar without medication. In all that time, this is only the third dessert I have eaten. I save my dessert eating for low carb, high quality desserts that are very special. I tested my fasting blood sugar the next day and it was fine. I was so happy. 😊

Just for the record, the first dessert I had was in May of 2019 in Killarney, Ireland. It was a fresh out of the oven, pear and almond custard tart. Still warm with a buttery crust, very flavorful and not too sweet. The second dessert I had was in November 2019 in Amritsar, India. My home town. It was Firni, a rice powder custard flavored with saffron, cardamom and pistachios. For special occasions, the top is garnished with silver leaf.

My grandmother used to make this all the time, so it brought back a lot of childhood memories. I will have to post the recipe for this some day.

Getting off memory lane and back to the event, the Cranberry Tiramisu will be paired with a champagne cocktail created by my husband. It will be a combination of Messina Hof Almond “Champagne” and the Texas South Wind cranberry fruit wine that I used in the dessert.

I had a lot of fun creating this menu. I hope everybody enjoys it. 💕

Event Planning Survey For The Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry

CWLAS JPEG Version

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. 💕

 

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

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.

Buffet Line

I. Enjoying Kachumber
Photo by Gabby Silva

I am very thankful to my guests for their goodwill and donations to the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry.  We were able to raise $775 to help our community.

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.

Cooking Class 2 Menu

THE APPETIZER

F. Plated Kachri
photo by Gabby Silva

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.

A'. Prepping Kachri

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.

C. Sauteing Kachri

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.

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THE SALAD

G. Plated Kachumber

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.

A. Prepping Kachumber

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.

Indian Cooking Class Feature
Photo by Gabby Silva

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.

Trio of Indian Curries
photo by Gabby Silva

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.

THE DESSERT

Zb. Ras Malai Plated
photo by Gabby Silva

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.

MAKING THE RAS GULLAS (cheese balls)

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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

W. making the cream (malai) for the ras gullas

  • 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.

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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.

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I also want to thank my guests for their support, and Gabby Silva for taking such great photos.

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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.

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