Cooking Classes


My New Kitchen and a Giveaway!

I love my new kitchen!  It is so easy to work in and I feel like I have tons of space.  I even have some empty shelves and at least one empty drawer!

This is Miss Sugar's chair.  She loves to cook!  With this chair in the kitchen she is never tempted to walk on the countertops.

 My gel mats arrived yesterday.  They are wonderful to stand on while cooking and will also protect the floor.

Oops!  I just spotted Miss Sugar in the picture above!

Now for the giveaway!  Just leave a comment and your name will be entered in a random draw for a jar of my homemade haskap jam!  I know that these berries are not available to most of you and I would love to share them.  I will send it anywhere in the world!  (I know this jar says blackberry!  Just don't have a picture of the haskap!)


Steelhead Trout Gravlax Appetizer

I made steelhead trout gravlax at Christmas.  At that time I served it on a platter with all the acroutrements and you assembled your own hors d'oeuvres.  This time I made a little potato bowl so I could build them and serve them more formally.

Remember this pan?   I was asking everyone how it might be used.  I finally gave it a test drive.  I made these little potato baskets in this pan.  But I have to agree with Renata at Testado, Provado e Aprovado.  It is too much work to clean!  It is not as steady and firm as a muffin pan.  I will continue to experiment with this pan.

Potato Bowl

Grate a baking potato.  Soak in water with 1 tsp salt.  Drain and dry.  Add one lightly beaten egg, 1 T flour and black pepper to taste.

Generously grease a muffin pan for mini sized muffins.  Preheat the pan in the oven to 375F.  When the pan is hot, add the shredded potato mixture to form little bowls.  Bake until browned, about 20 minutes.

Remove from pan and cool.  Deep fry the little potato bowls at 375F until crispy.  Drain.

When cool, fill with creme fraiche.  Garnish with chopped red onions and capers.  Top with a piece of steelhead trout gravlax.  Serve.


Filled Meringue Coffee Cake - Daring Bakers March Challenge

It has been months since I have participated.  Now that I am back in my kitchen, I hope to return to the fun of making something new with this group each month.

Because I want to be more cost conscious and also quit being a food hoarder, I made this with what I had on hand.  I had cashew nuts rather than pecans or walnuts so that led me to Ria's version of this.  It also gave me the opportunity to make garam masala.  Now I have it in my pantry for future uses.

This is so good.  It is bread-like and not even sweet.  I think it could be used as one would use a brioche.  I look forward to toasting it and slathering in butter for a quick breakfast.  I made a whole batch and froze the second round for use later.

The following recipe is from The Daring Bakers.

The March 2011 Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria’s Collection and Jamie of Life’s a Feast. Ria and Jamie challenged The Daring Bakers to bake a yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake.

Makes 2 round coffee cakes, each approximately 10 inches in diameter
The recipe can easily be halved to make one round coffee cake

For the yeast coffee cake dough:
4 cups (600 g / 1.5 lbs.) flour
¼ cup (55 g / 2 oz.) sugar
¾ teaspoon (5 g / ¼ oz.) salt
1 package (2 ¼ teaspoons / 7 g / less than an ounce) active dried yeast
¾ cup (180 ml / 6 fl. oz.) whole milk
¼ cup (60 ml / 2 fl. oz. water (doesn’t matter what temperature)
½ cup (135 g / 4.75 oz.) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 large eggs at room temperature
10 strands saffron for Ria’s version (Saffron might be hard to find and it’s expensive, so you can substitute with ½ - 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom or ground nutmeg. Or simply leave it plain like Jamie’s version)

For the meringue:
3 large egg whites at room temperature
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup (110 g / 4 oz.) sugar

For the filling:
Jamie’s version:
1 cup (110 g / 4 oz.) chopped pecans or walnuts
2 Tablespoons (30 g / 1 oz.) granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (170 g / 6 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips or coarsely chopped chocolate

Ria’s version:
1 cup (130 g / 5 oz.) chopped cashew nuts
2 Tablespoons (30 g / 1 oz.) granulated sugar
½ teaspoon garam masala (You can make it at home – recipe below - or buy from any Asian/Indian grocery store)
1 cup (170g / 6 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips ( I used Ghirardelli)
Egg wash: 1 beaten egg
Cocoa powder (optional) and confectioner’s sugar (powdered/icing sugar) for dusting cakes

**Garam (means “hot”) masala (means “mixture”) is a blend of ground spices and is used in most Indian savory dishes. It is used in limited quantities while cooking vegetables, meats & eggs. There is no “one” recipe for it as every household has a recipe of their own.

4 or 5 sticks (25 g) Cinnamon Sticks (break a stick and open the scroll)
3 ½ tablespoons (25 g / less than an ounce) Cloves, whole
100 g. (3.5 oz.) Fennel seeds
4 tablespoons (25 g / less than an ounce) Cumin seeds
1 ½ tablespoons (10 g / less than half an ounce) Peppercorns
25 g (less than half an ounce) Green Cardamom pods

In a small pan on medium heat, roast each spice individually (it hardly takes a minute) until you get a nice aroma. Make sure you stir it throughout so that it doesn’t burn. As soon as each spice is roasted, transfer it to a bowl to cool slightly. Once they are all roasted, grind into a fine powder by using a coffee grinder, or pestle & mortar. Store in an airtight container and use as needed.

Prepare the dough:
In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 ½ cups (230 g) of the flour, the sugar, salt and yeast.
In a saucepan, combine the milk, water and butter and heat over medium heat until warm and the butter is just melted. Ria’s version: add the 10 saffron threads to the warmed liquid and allow to steep off of the heat for 10 minutes. This will give the mixture a distinct aroma and flavor and a yellowish-orange hue.

With an electric mixer on low speed, gradually add the warm liquid to the flour/yeast mixture, beating until well blended. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes. Add the eggs and 1 cup (150 g) flour and beat for 2 more minutes.

Using a wooden spoon, stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a dough that holds together. Turn out onto a floured surface (use any of the 1 ½ cups of flour remaining) and knead the dough for 8 to 10 minutes until the dough is soft, smooth, sexy and elastic, keeping the work surface floured and adding extra flour as needed.

Place the dough in a lightly greased (I use vegetable oil) bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let rise until double in bulk, 45 – 60 minutes. The rising time will depend on the type of yeast you use.

Prepare your filling:In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and sugar for the filling if using. You can add the chopped nuts to this if you like, but I find it easier to sprinkle on both the nuts and the chocolate separately.

Once the dough has doubled, make the meringue:
In a clean mixing bowl – ideally a plastic or metal bowl so the egg whites adhere to the side (they slip on glass) and you don’t end up with liquid remaining in the bottom – beat the egg whites with the salt, first on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to high and continue beating until foamy and opaque. Add the vanilla then start adding the ½ cup sugar, a tablespoon at a time as you beat, until very stiff, glossy peaks form.

Assemble the Coffee Cakes:
Line 2 baking/cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Punch down the dough and divide in half. On a lightly floured surface, working one piece of the dough at a time (keep the other half of the dough wrapped in plastic), roll out the dough into a 20 x 10-inch (about 51 x 25 ½ cm) rectangle. Spread half of the meringue evenly over the rectangle up to about 1/2-inch (3/4 cm) from the edges.

Sprinkle half of your filling of choice evenly over the meringue (ex: half of the cinnamon-sugar followed by half the chopped nuts and half of the chocolate chips/chopped chocolate).

Now, roll up the dough jellyroll style, from the long side. Pinch the seam closed to seal. Very carefully transfer the filled log to one of the lined cookie sheets, seam side down. Bring the ends of the log around and seal the ends together, forming a ring, tucking one end into the other and pinching to seal.

Using kitchen scissors or a sharp knife, make cuts along the outside edge at 1-inch (2 ½ cm) intervals. Make them as shallow or as deep as desired but don’t be afraid to cut deep into the ring.

Repeat with the remaining dough, meringue and fillings.

Cover the 2 coffee cakes with plastic wrap and allow them to rise again for 45 to 60 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
Brush the tops of the coffee cakes with the egg wash. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes until risen and golden brown. The dough should sound hollow when tapped.

Remove from the oven and slide the parchment paper off the cookie sheets onto the table. Very gently loosen the coffee cakes from the paper with a large spatula and carefully slide the cakes off onto cooling racks. Allow to cool.

Just before serving, dust the tops of the coffee cakes with confectioner’s sugar as well as cocoa powder if using chocolate in the filling. These are best eaten fresh, the same day or the next day.

 Leftover coffee cake was wonderful when made into Pain Perdu or French Toast.


Photography Assignment

My little photography club is such fun.  This month the challenge is to take pictures inside stores.  I asked permission from this small, but interesting, decorating shop.
I had no idea the challenges this assignment would produce.

I had expected challenges with lighting.  There is instore lighting and the large window with natural light.  So I set my camera on automatic white balance.  It worked well.

Lighting challenges again.  See how the front pillow looks all right but as you go back there is glare.  No flash.  Just existing lights.

This one was okay.  Lighting is not bad, composition is okay, colours are fine.  Somewhat interesting.

Then you find this.  These towels had interesting colours but when photographed, they just do not look plush enough.  I did not think to take my white board and was unable to remove those shadows on the top of the towels.

Now you can see all the clutter.  It might work in the store but it does not work in a photograph.

 Then you get rid of the clutter and the lighing is harsh!

It was a fun learning experience. 


What is This?

I bought this years ago based on its artistic appeal.  I hung it on the wall in my kitchen and enjoyed it very much.

But what is it?  I have thought it might be a pan for individual creme caramel.  It seems rather delicate to balance if full of liquid.

The pieces are bonded together with these metal strips.  The pans are about 3 inches in diameter and 1.5 inches deep.  The volume is just under 1/4 cup.

Would you place this in a pan of water and bake your flans?  Would love to hear what you think.


I'm So Excited!!

I have my very first student!  This will be a fun summer.  I hope there are enough interested children to fill both classes.  Isn't this great!  She likes carrots and broccoli, wants to learn how to make a chocolate cake and beef on a bun and lasagna.  Just wait until I get the complete list from all 6 children.  I will have the class chock full of fun things to make.


Goat Cheese and Herb Gougères

Goat Cheese Herb Gougères

1 cup milk
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1/2 cup crumbled fresh goat cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
optional grated parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  In a medium saucepan,  combine the butter, milk and salt and bring to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and add the flour all at once.  Whisk for a few minutes, then return the pan to the heat and continue whisking to dry the paste out slightly.  Remove the heat from the pan again, switch to a wooden spoon, and add the eggs — one at a time — stirring to make sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next.  Stir in the goat cheese and chopped fresh chives.

Pipe the batter onto the baking sheets (or drop by the teaspoonful).  You can sprinkle them with grated parmesan cheese, if you wish.

Bake each sheet, one at a time, in the 375 degree F oven for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and continue cooking for another 5-10 minutes, until the tops are nicely browned and the gougères are puffed. Serve warm, or let cool completely and freeze in a well sealed bag.  You can reheat in an oven on a baking sheet before you’re ready to serve.
Makes about 2 dozen.

 I did a little experiment with my new Kitchenaid steam assist oven.  I cooked the gougères in two batches.  The darker and crispier ones were cooked with the steam assist.  They are far superior in colour and texture.


Cooking Camp for Kids

It is official!  I am beginning my cooking classes with a summer camp for children.

I have had a lot of positive feedback and it will be a lot of fun.  Read all about it here!

This class consists of 4 mornings from 8:30 – noon, Monday to Thursday.  There will be a maximum of 6 children in the class.  The first day will be totally planned by myself but in this first day we will, as a group, plan the ‘menu’ for the remaining three days.   The children will have input into what kinds of things they would like to cook.

My idea is that we will make a nutritious breakfast when they arrive and then work on a fun and interesting yet nutritious lunch.  I have a degree in home economics and education, have my Food Safe certificate and love cooking.  My goal is to have as many people making good food at home with local ingredients, as possible.

In addition to learning some new cooking skills, I will teach the children how to properly set a table and will touch on table etiquette, food safety, and nutrition. 

I have a brand new kitchen with wonderful appliances.  The children will be expected to do clean-up but the bulk of the dishes will be put in the dishwasher.  As with any cooking class, it is mainly about the food and food preparation.  For children ages 8 - 12 years.

Dates for the classes:           July 25 – 28 and August 8 – 11
Cost:                                    $140 per child each session
Optional add on:                  $20 + cost of fruit for a field trip to a U-Pick on the following Saturday or Sunday to pick fruits in season.  No need to sign up in advance for this.   It can be a last minute decision.  We will probably go to Treasure Valley Farms near Cadillac.


Last Minute Flatbread

I am dying to try my new gas range with steam assist.  But I do not have a clue what its potential is.  Yesterday I made a simple flatbread.

I like Mario Batali's pizza dough recipe for a flatbread.  I make a whole batch and roll them into personal size flatbreads.  The other 3 rolled crusts are in my freezer for 'fast food' some day soon.

In my pantry I had basil pesto, artichoke hearts, goat cheese and sundried tomatoes.  I wish I had thought to add some toasted pinenuts.  This is a perfect Mediterranean flatbread.

The oven created a wonderfully toasted and cooked pizza crust.  I used my pizza stone.  Perfect Sunday nosh.


Rosemary and Garlic Roasted Lamb

After more than 3 months of no kitchen I am slowly getting up to speed.  Today I took a lamb shoulder roast out of my freezer and made this.  It was sooooo good to have something roasted rather than a crockpot or microwaved meal.

I am also doing research on what type of cooking classes might be of interest in my little city.  Today, as I was having my hair shampooed, I picked the gal's brain.  She would love to know how to season meat and use more spices.  It confounded me at the time.  Perhaps because it is second nature to me but after I threw this little roast in the oven, I got it!  It was an 'aha!' moment.

There is nothing complicated about doing a simple roast lamb.  I studded this with a few pieces of garlic.  Then I seasoned the top of the roast with sea salt, coarsely ground black pepper and dried rosemary.  Before seasoning, I rubbed the meat with a little olive oil so the seasonings would stick.

I cut a russet potato into wedges, drizzled with olive oil and fresh lemon juice, and seasoned with salt and pepper.  Part way through the roasting time, I added the potato wedges to the pan.

The result...heavenly.  I roasted at 350F for about 1 1/2 hours for this little 2 pound roast.  I think this is the type of thing that others would love to know how to make.