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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Fourth of July–Roasted Ravioli & Blistered Tomato Skewers

HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY to everyone!!!

Happy Fourth of July 2019My husband and I are just about to go to a neighborhood pool party to celebrate with our friends.  I came up with this easy red, white and blue appetizer for the party pot luck.

INGREDIENTS:

Toasted Ravioli & Blistered Tomato Skewers Ingredients

  • 48 ounces of grape tomatoes
  • 24 ounces of basil and cheese ravioli
  • blue toothpicks
  • olive oil to coat and toast ravioli

PREPPING THE RAVIOLI

Boiling the Ravioli

  • Bring 4 quarts of water to boil
  • Add a table spoon of salt
  • Add the ravioli and boil till they float to the top and puff up.  This takes about 4 minutes.

Placing the Ravioli in an Oiled Baking Dish

  • Drain cooked ravioli into a glass baking dish that has been oiled with olive oil.  This prevents the ravioli from sticking to each other.

Toasting the Ravioli

  • Coat a large non-stick skillet with olive oil and place on medium high heat.
  • Place the cooked ravioli in a single layer and toast on both sides.
  • Do this in batches and keep adding the toasted ravioli to a glass baking dish.

Toasted Ravioli

Follow the instructions from my Blistered Tomatoes post to prepare the tomatoes.

Toasted Ravioli & Blistered Tomatoes

ASSEMBLY

Skewer Assembly

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.

Toasted Ravioli & Blistered Tomatoes Feature

 

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. !!!

Curried Baby Turnips (tops & all)

Curried Baby Turnips, is the first in a series of six recipes inspired by Vegetables From Down The Road.  The baby turnips from our neighboring farm were so fresh that I decided to use them tops and all.  This is a classic Indian dish which is usually made with cilantro.  Here I substituted the tender, fresh turnip tops for the cilantro.

INGREDIENTS:

 

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  • 2 bunches of baby turnips (each bunch had 5 turnips)
  • 3 peppers (use whatever variety you have on hand–here I used a Fresno, a sweet orange pepper and a fiery hot green scotch bonnet pepper.)  Mixing up the type of peppers results in a more complex flavor.
  • 2 inches of ginger root
  • 2 inches of turmeric root (if you cannot find fresh turmeric, use 1/2 tsp. of powder instead)
  • 8 ounces of frozen peas
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp. black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. nigella seeds
  • 1 tsp. chili flakes (optional if you want to make the dish more spicy)
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp. garam masala (I make my own, but you can purchase it at an Indian grocery store or a spice market)
  • 2 Tbsp. grape seed oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

PREP:

Curried Baby Turnips Prep

  • Trim off the turnip bottoms and tops.  Leave the skins on.  Cut the turnips in half and then slice them into thin moon shapes.
  • Roughly chop the turnip tops.
  • Finely dice the chilies and ginger.

COOK:

 

  • Coat a large stainless steel skillet with grape seed oil and place on medium heat.
  • Add the turnips, chilies and ginger.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Sprinkle on the cumin, black mustard and nigella seeds.  Add the optional chili flakes.
  • Using a micro plane or mini grater, grate the fresh turmeric at this point.  If you are using powdered turmeric, it will be added later in the recipe.  If you add it now, it will burn.

 

  • Saute the turnips until they are translucent and the added seeds begin to pop.  You will be able to hear them popping.
  • Turn the heat to medium-low.
  • Add the tomato paste and smoked paprika.  If you are using powdered turmeric, add it at this point.  Continue to saute for another 2 minutes.

 

  • Add the chopped turnip tops and saute until they wilt.  This should take 2 or 3 minutes.

 

  • Add the peas and sprinkle on the garam masala.
  • Add additional salt and pepper as needed.
  • Toss everything together.
  • Turn off the heat and cover with the lid.

Leave the turnips on the stove without removing the lid for about 10-20 minutes or until you are ready to serve.  This process is called “DUM” in Hindi.  It allows all the flavors to marry and become one harmonious flavor. This is a very important step in traditional Indian cooking.

As a side note.  At the end of February 2019, I found out that I have high blood sugar.  For the past 4 months, I have been following a ketogenic lifestyle along with intermittent fasting.  I have been successful in controlling my blood sugar and I also lost 30 pounds.  I will write more about this in a separate post.  This recipe just happens to fit a keto lifestyle.  Turnips are a great substitute for potatoes on a keto program.  Try this recipe because it is delicious.  Let me know how it turns out in the comment section.

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 AND KALE TIKKIS (CUTLETS)
  3. CARROT TOPS AND CORIANDER CHUTNEY
  4. CARROT TOPS AND PARSLEY PESTO PASTA
  5. COLLARD GREENS AND 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!!!

Oatmeal Your Way

Inspired by the Polar Vortex, a recipe to warm your bones and your soul.

I call this recipe “Oatmeal Your Way” because it is very easy to customize to your liking.  Once you make oatmeal from scratch you will never want to open an instant oatmeal packet again.  This is the way my mom and Nani (my mom’s mom) made oatmeal.  It is as easy to make as it is nutritious and delicious.

I made it for my godchildren, Sachi and her sister, Michi when they were about 4 and 5 years old.  Sachi sent me the following letter asking me to make it again.

oatmealletter

It is a very popular dish with children.  It is also served to new mother’s and people who are ailing because it is nutritious and easy to digest.  Sachi came to visit me a few years ago with her daughter, Aleia and I made the oatmeal for the cute little one.  Here is a photo of Sachi, all grown up now, feeding oatmeal to her daughter, Aleia.  Made me feel warm all over to pass on my memory of my mom feeding me oatmeal when I was little.

oatmealnextgeneration

As I said, it is very popular with children.  I modified the recipe for Aleia because she cannot have lactose.  I used almond milk instead of regular milk.  I also ground the almonds in a spice grinder so that Aleia could easily eat the oatmeal.

INGREDIENTS:

oatmealingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. almond oil (customize by using butter or any flavor oil you like.  For example, if I am making pecan flavor I use pecan oil.  The options are endless–walnut oil, hazelnut oil, avocado oil, etc…)
  • 1 cup of organic old fashioned oats (organic oatmeal actually has more of a nutty flavor besides being better for you.  DO NOT USE INSTANT QUICK COOK OATS–they will turn out mushy.)
  • 1/2 cup raw slivered almonds (customize by using whatever nut you are in the mood for.)
  • 1/4 dried berries (here I used a combination of goji and cranberries.  When Aleia was visiting, I used dried blueberries because she loves blueberries.)
  • 1/4 tsp. of my Chai Masala (basically a combo of ground cardamom and fennel seeds)
  • 1/2 tsp. of cinnamon (customize by using your favorite spice.  Depending on the flavor you want to create, use pumpkin spice, apple pie spice mix, etc…)
  • 2 cups of milk (will make a porridge like consistency.  You can use more milk if you want to make it thinner.)  I used Fairlife Milk here.  It is lactose free and high in protein.  You can use any milk you like–almond milk, cashew milk, soy milk, etc…
  • 2 Tbsp. of Agave nectar (customize by using your favorite sweetener–maple syrup, honey, brown sugar, molasses, etc…)
  • 1 medium sized organic apple diced into large chunks.

oatmealapplesprep
Again, you can customize the flavor by using your favorite fruit.  You can also leave out the fruit.  I use what seasonal fruit is available.

  • Freshly ground nutmeg as a garnish for those who want it.

NOTE:  by customizing and changing the ingredients, the flavor combinations are endless.  One Christmas morning, I made a giant potful of banana walnut oatmeal sweetened with maple syrup and spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg.  I used a whole can of oatmeal to make sure there was enough for everyone’s breakfast.  It disappeared in 10 minutes.  I had to make another batch!!!

COOK:

  • Coat a medium sized stainless steel saucepan with 2 Tbsp. of almond oil.

oatmealcook1

  • Add 1 cup of oats and turn the flame to medium-low.  Toast the oats while stirring occasionally.  You will know the oats are done when you smell a nutty flavor and the oats turn slightly golden.
  • Add the 1/2 cup of slivered almonds and continue to toast till the nuts turn slightly brown.oatmealcook4
  • Add the 1/4 cup of dried berries along with the spices.  Stir and toast for another 30 seconds.  The toasting will bloom the spices and you will smell them.
  • Add the 2 cups of milk.  You will hear a sizzling sound when you add the milk.

oatmealcook8

  • Stir in the milk.  Continue to cook, stirring occasionally until the milk starts to boil.  Small bubbles will appear.

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  • Turn off the heat.  Stir in the diced apples and place the lid.  Let sit for five minutes.  This is enough time to warm the apples while still leaving them crunchy.

 

Remove the lid and serve.

Oatmeal Feature

Garnish with a grind of fresh nutmeg if desired.  Enjoy as is, or with a cup of tea or coffee.  Makes a great breakfast, brunch dish or dessert.

Roasted Golden Beets with Chimichurri

Roasted vegetables are my favorite, especially in the autumn and winter.  They are delicious and easy to make.  I found some beautiful golden beets at the neighborhood farm stand.  I decided to roast them and use their fresh leaves in a chimichurri.  Nothing goes to waste around here.  Either we eat it or we feed it to our animals.

INGREDIENTS:

Roasted Golden Beets with Chimichurri Ingredients

  • 4 medium beets.  Their tops will be used in the chimichurri
  • fresh leaves from the tops of 4 beets
  • 1 bunch of parsley
  • 1/2 bunch of cilantro leaves (leave this out if you don’t like cilantro)
  • cilantro stems chopped up (cilantro stems have a lot of flavor)
  • 1 serrano chili (optional)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. chili flakes (optional)
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 2 Tbsp. of my Italian Spice Mix for coating the beets
  • 2 Tbsp. of olive oil to coat the beets
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil for the chimichurri
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

PREPPING THE BEETS:

Golden Beets Preped for Oven

  • Cut off the tops and bottoms of the beets
  • Save the fresh beet leaves for the chimichurri
  • Coat the beets with olive oil amd my Italian Spice Mix
  • Add salt and pepper to taste
  • Roast in a 400 F oven until fork tender (about 15 to 20 minutes)

MAKING THE CHIMICHURRI:

While the beets are roasting make the chimichurri.

  • Toast the cumin seeds.  Let them cool to room temp.  Grind them into a powder in the spice grinder.
  • In a small food processor add the following:Chimichurri Ingredients in Blender
    • beet leaves
    • parsley leaves
    • coriander leaves and chopped up stems
    • 2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
    • 1 serrano chili, roughly chopped
    • chili flakes
    • toasted cumin powder
    • 1/4 cup of olive oil

Whiz everything up.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Chimichurri

Cut the roasted beets into half inch slices.

I prefer thicker medallions.  If you want to make them thinner that is totally fine.  Place the beet medallions on a platter and top off with a dollop of chimichurri.Roasted Golden Beets with Chimichurri Feature

This is a delicious appertizer or side dish.  It can also be served as a main vegetarian or vegan dish if you increase the portions size.

Kabocha Launji

This is a winter pumpkin dish my grandmother used to make.  It was one of my favorites.  She used to use a small deep orange pumpkin, I am using a Japanese pumpkin, called Kabocha squash, because that is what I have on hand.  I also like Kabocha because it has a creamy, sweet flavor.

INGREDIENTS:

Launji Ingredients

  • 1 medium Kabocha squash
  • 3 Tbsp of ghee ( if you want to keep it vegan use grape seed oil instead)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Starting at the 6 O’ Clock position, and then going counter clockwise the spices are as follows:

  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1/2 tsp red chili flakes
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 20 pods of green cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne powder
  • 1/2 tsp of cinnamon powder

PREP:

Launji Prep

  • Chop the Kobocha into large pieces.  Keep the skin on if the squash you are using has an edible skin.  There are lots of nutrients and fiber in the skin.
  • Using a spice grinder, grind the 20 cardamom pods into a fine powder.  The cardamom powder is shown in the small bowl on the lower right.
  • Toast the cumin seeds.  Let them cool to room temp. and grind into a fine powder.  The toasted cumin powder is shown in the small bowl on the lower left.

COOK:

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  • Coat a large stainless steel skillet with grape seed oil or ghee.  Place on medium heat and get the oil hot.
  • Add fennel seeds, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and red chili flakes.  Toast until seeds are slightly brown and you can smell their fragrant aroma.  Watch the seeds closely and stir frequently so the seeds don’t burn.
  • As soon as the seeds are browned, add the Kabocha.  Toss together and cook until the Kabocha is browned on the edges.  This should take about 7 minutes.

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  • Once the Kabocha is browned add, the toasted cumin powder, cayenne powder and 1/2 of the cardamom powder.  Reserve the other 1/2 of the cardamom powder for later in the recipe.Launji Cook 7
  •  Toss together and let the spices toast for about 2 minutes
  • Add the cinnamon powder and the remaining cardamom powder

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  • Toss together and let cook for another 2 minutes.
  • Add 1/2 cup water, salt and pepper to taste.  Toss together.  Cover with the lid.  Turn the flame to low.  Cook until squash is tender.

Traditionally, this dish is served with plain home made yogurt, lentil soup and rotis.  You can buy the yogurt or make your own using My Mom’s Yogurt recipe.  The lentil soup is called dal, I posted my Autumn Dal (split mung beans with kale)  last year.

Today I served it with spicy pan-fried Black Drum that my hubby brought home 2 days ago.Launji with Black Drum

Here is a photo of his catch and how I prepared it.

The Black Drum is the large fish on the far right.  The 4 little fish are trout.  My hubby fileted the fish and I coated the filets with my Indian Spice Mix.

I then pan fried the filets and then de-glazed the pan with our local Texas, Messina Hof Gewurztraminer. I made a pan sauce by adding a pat of butter.  Gewurztraminer pairs well with spicy Indian food.

RECIPE TIP:  Use the wine you are going to drink to make the pan sauce.  This way the dish will match your wine.Launji with Black Drum and Wine

I am so lucky to have a hubby who catches fish for me.  I rarely get a Black Drum catch, so I was so glad to have it.

Hope you like this recipe.  Let me know what you think by leaving a comment.