Upcoming Workshop: Warming Spices to Melt the Winter Chill

If you’re a curry lover, then you’ll love our first class of the Winter season, Warming Spices to Melt the Winter Chill. It’s getting much colder out and if you like spices like I do, then it’s time for something warm and comforting like curry. Additional spices like tumeric and ginger have been known to help with arthritis and circulation. I wouldn’t call them particularly hot spices, I’d call them warming spices. If you’re looking for another alternative to everyday dinners, then this should spice things up.

We’ll cook a delicious chicken masala (curry), gobi manchurian (cauliflower dish), and a vegetable coconut curry dish accompanied by brown rice. You’ll discover some delicious spices and learn to grind a garam marsala spice blend.

Class will be Friday, January 8 from 6 to 8pm. Please come out and join us.

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If You Love Salads Workshop

If you had a love affair with salads your whole life like I had, you would’ve loved the salads we made Monday night. What is it about salads that we love so much? Is it the crunch of fresh veggies or the tangy dressings? I am still am not sure. Not all salads are the same as we demonstrated with the 3 salads we made.

The Asian Cabbage Salad had cabbage, snap peas, carrots, lots of nuts and a tangy Asian dressing; The nuts gave it lots of crunch. The Thai Chicken Salad had cabbage, garden peas, garden cilantro, garden green onions, chopped green apple and a yummy peanut dressing; It had a lot of fresh produce going into it. The Warm Portobella Mushroom Salad was the simplest of all the salads (and one of the favorites) with spinach, sun dried tomatoes, pine nuts, Asiago cheese, and baked sliced mushrooms; It’s simple dressing was made from olive oil and balsamic vinegar that drenched the spinach and was topped with warm steak-like mushrooms.

The drawing for a  mini chopper and colander went to Sandi who drew her own name!

We had two girls from out of town: Debbie from California and Laura from North Carolina. It was a great venue to show our out-of-town guests how hospitable a little town like Loretto can be!

The evening summer weather was the perfect setting to eat our salads outdoors. Good food, good weather, good conversation: What more more could you ask for?

A Weekday Vegetarian Meal Workshop

I took the heat (literally) when I prepared the ingredients for our vegetarian workshop on Thursday. Chiles are spicy before they’re cooked. My hands were feeling the heat! Mexican food takes a lot of preparation but it’s well worth the effort. I converted my Mexican rice from tomato to roasted red peppers for a guest who cannot eat tomatoes. I wanted to make sure we wouldn’t miss the tomatoes.

The girls really enjoyed preparing the meal and sampled along the way. That’s the fun about cooking with a group. We made stuffed poblanos with enchilada sauce accompanied by Mexican rice and a farm fresh salad with a Caesar dressing.

The weather was beautiful, so we ate outside. Everyone cleaned their plates!

Cooking with Alcohol Part 3 Workshop

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Wednesday night was our last workshop in the Cooking with Alcohol series.  We made a marinara sauce with a gluten-free pasta, accompanied by a salad tossed in lemon/garlic salad dressing and pan roasted green beans in pine nut butter.

This marinara sauce is made completely from scratch, but don’t let that deter you. It’s easy to make. We roasted garlic and roma tomatoes tossed in olive oil for about 30 minutes. We then whirled them up in the food processor and added fresh raw garlic, basil, parsley and balsamic vinegar. We used balsamic vinegar instead of sugar to cut the bitter taste of the tomatoes. Sauvignon Blanc white wine was added instead of the red wine typically used. Using white wine gives a lighter and fruitier flavor. Once our sauce was pureed, we added it to a saucepan and let it simmer for only 30 minutes. 30 minutes was enough time to achieve a pretty thick sauce. However, I typically let the sauce cook for about an hour or more to achieve a deeper color and richer flavor.

While the sauce cooked, we tackled our gluten-free pasta. Making pasta is an art and test of patience, but it is well worth the effort. I pre-made our dough out of organic cornstarch, tapioca flour and potato flour and added Xanthum gum to give it that gluten-like stickiness that’s in traditional wheat pastas. Eggs were added to finish off the dough.

The girls used the pasta roller to make sheets before turning the dough into spaghetti. It took a few passes before we were ready to use the spaghetti attachment. The pasta drying rack came in handy to hang all our noodles on until we were ready to use them.

Next, we prepared our lemon/garlic salad dressing with olive oil, fresh garlic, lemon, salt and pepper. It’s a nice, light and healthy dressing.

The last dish of the night was our pan roasted green beans with pine nut butter. Although the title says, pine nut butter, there is only a tablespoon of butter which gives it just the right amount of flavor. If you like butter, but want to cut out all the calories, combine butter with olive oil. The olive oil will also prevent the butter from burning.

The pasta and marinara sauce turned out perfect. However, I believe the pan roasted green beans stole the show. It’s a simple recipe with amazing taste.

Our entire calorie count for the evening was 593 calories!

Get ready, our next class will be making light, healthy appetizers on Wednesday, April 9.

No Leftovers!

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It was another great workshop in the Cooking with Alcohol Series, part 2. We had 7 participants.

We grilled a tequila chicken marinaded in a homemade low-carb margarita mix (all from scratch). Black beans, rice and a farm fresh salad accompanied the dish. This gracious meal consisted of only 520 calories! There was no guilt and the guests left no left-overs!

This workshop focused on marinading. When meat is marinaded in alcohol, it bonds to the molecules and also helps carry fat soluble compounds like garlic, herbs and other seasoning into the meat.

Since we were doing a Spanish Style dish, I thought it would be fun to introduce some Costa Rican flavors to the students. Tica, which is short for Costa Rican was the style for our Tica Black Beans and a Tica Salad Dressing. We used a Costa Rican product called Salsa Lizano. The salsa is the consistency of a curry sauce, but tastes totally different. It’s not like the salsa Americans know. Costa Ricans use the salsa (or sauce) as a condiment. It’s perfect for marinading meats, using in tomato salsa, ceviche, arroz con pollo (chicken with rice), braising meat, using in guacamole or as a condiment in tacos. You can find the salsa on ebay, amazon or in Latin markets.

In every workshop, we give a gift related to our class. Kerry won our drawing for a 32 oz. bottle of Salsa Lizano. Congrats to him.

Each participant goes home with our workshop recipe cards. We’re happy to announce, our recipes now have the nutrition info on the back! I was lucky to find that an internet site called, Spark People has a recipe calculator. The site allows you to save your recipes privately or share them online. There’s quite an extensive ingredient database. I was pleased to find Salsa Lizano as one of their ingredients!

At the end of our workshop, one of our guests exclaimed, “Your workshops are the one thing I really enjoy.” Thank you for that! We try very hard to create a fun and unique experience for all our participants. As the weather warms up, we’ll be taking some of our workshops outside.

Cooking with Alcohol Workshop – First in a 3-Part Series

Chicken Marsala finished with fresh parsley

Chicken Marsala

Spinach Risotto

Spinach Risotto

We had 6 people here for our Wednesday night workshop, Cooking with Alcohol. We made my favorite classic old school dish, Chicken Marsala paired with Spinach Risotto. What I love about the Chicken Marsala recipe is that the chicken is not breaded and is still one of the true authentic Italian recipes out there.

Thankfully, since it was such a nice night, everyone started by enjoying a beverage out by our outdoor fireplace.

Before we tackeled our two recipes, we took a trip to the greenhouse to pick some of the first spinach of the season to use in our risotto.

Chicken Marsala is one of the best recipes to show a variety of techniques such as marinading, tenderizing, butterflying chicken, sauce reduction and clarifying butter. Some of the girls had never tried these techniques, so it was a great learning opportunity for them.

Our sauce reduction took about 10 minutes, which is a practice in patience. However, it’s well worth the wait. Reducing sauces creates such a rich and flavorful sauce that fills the house with a lovely smell. Most great “flavors” in food comes from aromas in the nose rather than the mouth. (Ever notice how you can’t fully taste the food when you have a stuffed up nose?)

The risotto (also known as arborio rice) was also a learning opportunity since most hadn’t tried their hand at making this saucy kind of rice. Making risotto is more of a hands on art in contrast to making rice (in which you boil it and put on the lid). Risotto requires that you add liquid a cup at a time until the liquid is absorbed. It can take up to 5 cups of liquid for a cup of risotto. You add the liquid until the rice is soft and not al dente. We finished it off with Parmesan and spinach. It made a nice accompaniment to our chicken.

When it came time to plate up, we were ready. Along the way, I encouraged everyone to sample the dish so we could make adjustments if necessary. It’s especially nice to make a dish as a group and then sit down and enjoy. Everyone is part of the end result and feels connected.

Each of our workshops have been unique. I think each individual brings something different; in the way they perceive cooking and their enthusiasm. I’m looking forward to the next two classes: Tequila Chicken and Homemade Marinara Sauce.

Fresh Produce

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It’s starting to warm up around here. Hopefully the coldest days are behind us. Just like the weather, we’re also getting warmed up.

We are looking forward to using this year’s fresh produce in our workshops. Our greenhouse starter plants are doing wonderfully: carrots, bunching onions, snap and garden peas, arugula, spinach, cabbage, romaine lettuce and mesculin as well as a variety of herbs. They will go beautifully with our newly posted workshops on salads and appetizers. Come join us for some fresh, light, healthy and delicious workshops.

Stay posted. As the weather gets even warmer, we’ll take some of our classes outside. We’ll dine farm style in our garden and do a little barbecuing.

Chocolate 3-Ways Workshop

Wednesday was a nice night for a chocolate making party. Six ladies and one young gentleman joined me in making delicious white chocolate, toasted coconut chocolate and some chocolate dessert cups with toasted coconut banana ice cream.

One of the girls came ready to cook with her own apron which made me think, I must get aprons for my customers! I’m sure everyone would appreciate it.

Desserts are not my specialty, but chocolate by far is one of the easiest desserts to show how to make. The chocolate firms up fast in the freezer. It took a full 30 minutes. Everyone seemed to enjoy both chocolates, but the white chocolate was my personal favorite.

We used honey as the sweetener for the chocolates. We were able to incorporate it into the chocolate mixture by whisking it for a full minute without it separating. Mixing honey with chocolate is like mixing oil and water. I got a tip from another blogger that said to add a little coconut flour and it worked brilliantly to help it emulsify.

We made the banana ice cream at the end. I got some surprised looks after some of them sampled the banana ice cream. It’s made with frozen bananas and does not require any sugar (and it doesn’t need it). We added some milk, vanilla and toasted coconut and it was simply delicious. “It’s a really great way to get your potassium!” one of the girls so eloquently put it. My sentiments exactly!

I always have some great conversations during these workshops especially when we’re finished cooking and we’re sampling our foods. The son of one of the girls already has an appreciation for healthy foods. He proudly told me the story of how he and his mom had made delicious oven roasted talapia the other night seasoned with Italian herbs and olive oil. His mother, who has been gluten-free and free of processed sugar for 30 years now has taught her son the importance of eating organic and healthy. I think he has a healthy future ahead of him.

It was nice to learn that two of the girls like to go to events around our area. I always enjoy finding new venues to spark the imagination and be creative. I’m hoping our workshop inspired everyone.

One of the girls won our drawing for an 8 oz. jar of Williams of Sonoma coconut oil.

It was a very sweet night!

Tuesday’s Fireside Soup Making Workshop

Eleven people came for Tuesday’s Fireside Soup Making Workshop. The participants were split up into two teams: Team Chili and Team Pozole. We had a great time making soup and later enjoyed our finished products near the fire. Everyone was able to enjoy both soups with their choice of garnishes. After sampling both soups, both teams said they liked their team’s soup the best. Now that’s a testament to team loyalty!

Fireside Soup Making Workshop Tonight

It’s going to be a great evening tonight. We’re expecting a good sized crowd coming to our mini workshop. My thoughts on creating these mini workshops during the week are to give people a chance to get out for a couple of hours, learn a couple of new things and enjoy a great home cooked meal. Tonight we’re making two wonderful homemade soups: a chicken soup called Pozole and a chili. We’ll enjoy a nice fire in the fireplace to celebrate the change in the weather.

A few people I’ve talked to this week say they or a member in their family is battling diabetes, high blood pressure, or fibromyalgia just to name a few. Some are not sure where to start when it comes changing the way they cook. Sometimes it takes one of these life changing events to make changes. That’s what happened to me. I’m hoping our workshops benefit these types of people, but I’m also hoping it helps prevent someone from having to deal with the long journey of recovery. I’ve always said, how you control your health starts at home. Being conscious of what you eat is a first step.

Our chili is naturally low carb. Aside from the canned low-sodium chicken broth, tomatoes and beans, there’s no added salt in the soup and it tastes great! Here’s where alternative cooking comes in; you can take this a step further and buy low-sodium tomatoes and dried beans. Alternative cooking is all about being conscious of your ingredients and the options you have to choose from while not compromising taste. Think outside the recipe!

Stay posted. We’ll post photos of our event tomorrow.