December 28, 2015

Best of 2015


It's the final days of the year and time to look back on the past twelve months. 2015 was a great year, the happiest I've had in a long time. I fell hard and fast for a wonderful man who loves me (and all my quirks), who makes me smile until my face hurts, who spoils me rotten, and who has become my favorite person of all time in the history of ever. I'm as smitten with him today as I was on our very first date.

After many years of heartbreak and drama, I finally feel like myself again. I'm no longer suffering from overwhelming anxiety and depression, I have more self-esteem, I enjoy the time I spend alone (instead of feeling lonely), and I am excited about teaching.

I'm looking forward to the future instead of being worried about it. We are planning a spring break trip to Montreal (a surprise Christmas gift from Nick). We are talking about taking other trips as well...to Chicago, Memphis, New Orleans, Orlando, San Diego, Washington DC. Paris, someday. Planning a future is so much fun!

All in all, I'm just damn happy. FINALLY.

While I spent more time knitting than cooking this year, I still enjoyed feeding my family and friends. Here are my top ten posts and some of the best food I made in 2015.

Wishing everyone a wonderful 2016!







December 26, 2015

Butternut Squash & Apple Bisque

Remember the Downton Abbey-inspired birthday lunch I made for a friend and her mother last month? Here are those lovely ladies I had the pleasure of cooking for:


Here is another of my favorite recipes from that day. 

Normally, I don't care for smooth, creamy soups...too much like eating baby food. But this recipe is flavorful and velvety. The addition of tart apples, ginger, and cardamom makes for a much more interesting version as well.


And it's quite perfect for a nice, light supper on this stormy, wet, gray day after Christmas.

Butternut Squash & Apple Bisque

December 21, 2015

Salted Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

This year, I am actually looking forward to Christmas....the first time in many years. I've decorated my house; I even have a little tree! I've bought many gifts. I'm excited to spend the holiday with Nick and his daughters. It's nice to be part of a family again. 

We are planning a few get-togethers this week...crafting on Tuesday, cookie baking on Wednesday, and (hopefully) dinner at my place on Christmas day. I'm thinking I'll make homemade pasta with bolognese sauce and creme brûlée

I am baking classic spritz cookies (like my Grandma Green used to make), red velvet crinkle cookies,  and cranberry-pistachio biscotti. I may also make another batch of these delicious, decadent, sophisticated shortbreads that I made in my demo class on Saturday. 

Salted Chocolate Shortbread Cookies


November 10, 2015

Apple Charlotte with Earl Grey Crème Anglaise


On Sunday, I cooked a Downton Abbey-inspired supper to celebrate a friend's mom's birthday. Here was our menu:

Smoked salmon mousse with cucumber canapes
Butternut squash soup with sour cream & pumpkin seeds 
Salad with Roquefort, figs, walnuts & creamy pomegranate dressing
Prosciutto, rosemary, & thyme gougeres 
Apple Charlotte with Earl Grey crème anglaise

In the 5th episode of Downton Abbey, the cook Mrs. Patmore refuses to make an Apple Charlotte for dessert, as request by the lady of the house, because she was having problems with her eyesight and couldn't read the recipe.

Apple Charlotte is essentially a caramelized apple filling baked in a French-toasty crust. In my research, I saw many different versions and methods. I chose a recipe posted on the Downton Abbey Cooks blog that uses raisin bread for the crust and condensed milk for the caramel filling. The bread is dipped in an egg & milk batter, which results in a bread pudding-like consistency. (Confession: I don't think I followed the "lightly dip" directions well. I probably should have just brushed the bread.)

In hindsight, I think it would have been better to brush the bread with butter and toast it in the oven, then brush only the tops of each Charlotte with the egg mixture. This would make for a crispier crust that held up better.

Another suggestion: Don't forget to grease the ramekins. It was difficult to get the desserts neatly out of their dishes. Whoops.

Still, these individual desserts make for an impressive presentation, and everyone seemed to like them.

Apple Charlotte with Earl Grey Créme Anglaise

November 7, 2015

Buttered Popcorn Cookies


So, the semester is more than halfway over. It's been a good school year. I like my classes, for the most part anyway. My stress level is fairly low, except for the new teacher evaluation procedures. This year, 25% of my evaluation is based on student progress. I have to assess my students three times from September to November on the writing standards I've chosen to focus on. I have to chart their scores, determining how much I think they can improve in the two months' time. After the post-assessment, if at least 80% of my students meet their learning target, I get an "excellent" for that part of my evaluation.

Such. Bullshit.

This isn't making me a better teacher. In fact, it's making me less effective since I'm spending so much time focusing on the assessments instead of the rest of my curriculum, and I'm falling behind in my other grading.

It's all frustrating me, but my students are aware of why they are taking these assessments and I've been honest with them about the outcomes so far. Thankfully, they are understanding and cooperative.

Because it's time-consuming for them, too, I made a little treat for one of my classes this week. I didn't have any chocolate chips or whatnot for traditional cookies, but I did have some popcorn....so popcorn cookies it was!

These are quite buttery, but salty and sweet and really good.

Buttered Popcorn Cookies
from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook


November 1, 2015

Winter 2015-2016 Cooking Classes



Kitchen Conservatory's winter schedule is now available online and runs through March.

I'm teaching a few demonstration classes: Girls' Night Out classes out on a champagne-laden menu on December 19, Korean food on February 20, and a dip extravaganza on March 19.

My Date Night for Couples classes include a beer pairing on December 7, an ultimate cocktail party on December 20, a salsa dance & dinner class on January 23, and a chili cook-off on January 31.

My Valentine's Day class is on February 6 and features soufflé with lobster sauce & seared scallops with champagne-balsamic glaze.

Below is my schedule. To register, call Kitchen Conservatory at 314-862-2665 or register online.

GIRLS' NIGHT OUT: BUBBLES - Saturday, December 19 @ 6:00-8:30 (demonstration)
  • Who doesn't love the sound of a popping champagne cork? Celebrate the season as I create elderflower-gin champagne cocktail, prosciutto puff pastry twists with champagne mustard, lobster-citrus salad with avocado and fennel and champagne vinaigrette, pan-roasted chicken au Champagne with mushrooms in champagne cream sauce, truffled smashed potatoes, plus salted chocolate shortbread with pink champagne sorbet.
DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: THE ULTIMATE COCKTAIL PARTY - Sunday, December 20 @ 5:00-7:30 (hands-on)
  • We will mix up Hemingway daiquiris and pear old-fashioneds. Learn to create a dazzling spread of smoked deviled eggs with quick pickled jalapeños, roasted red pepper and pomegranate hummus with crudités and homemade crackers, Korean-style barbecue pork skewers, savory butternut-goat cheese tarts with fried sage, plus saffron lollipops.
SATURDAY NIGHT SUSHI - Saturday, January 16 @ 6:00-8:30 (hands-on)
  • Menu includes tempura vegetables, miso soup, edamame salad with ginger-soy dressing, crab and mango inside-out rolls with teriyaki glaze, spicy tuna hand rolls, crunchy shrimp rolls with avocado-chile cream, and sweet plum ice cream.
DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: SALSA SALSA DINE AND DANCE - Saturday, January 23 @ 6:00-9:00 (hands-on)
  • Grab your partner and join us for a unique experience of dancing and dining. The evening begins with a one-hour Latin salsa dance lesson with a dance instructor from COCA, that will spark your appetite for a memorable evening in the kitchen. Afterwards, refresh your thirst with a mojito, then enjoy fried corn tortilla chips with black bean dip, grilled shrimp quesadillas with smoked tomato salsa, roasted pork tenderloin with papaya-mango salsa and yellow Cuban rice, plus banana cream pie with chocolate crumb crust.
DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: THE BIG CHILL-I COOK-OFF - Sunday, January 31 @ 5:00-7:30 (hands-on)
  • Let the battle begin, as couples create and choose their favorite chili for a spirited evening of cooking, fun, and a little beer to wash it down. Learn to make roasted corn and jalapeño dip with fresh tortilla chips, Carolina pulled pork chili, Cincinnati chili with spaghetti, "real" Texas chili (without beans), and delicious root beer sorbet.
VALENTINE FOR COUPLES: SEDUCED BY SHELLFISH - Saturday, February 6 @ 6:00-8:30 (hands-on) 
  • Learn to make red pepper bisque "cappuccino" with gruyère and smoked paprika crackers topped with foamed cream, goat cheese soufflé with creamy lobster sauce and arugula salad, seared scallops with champagne-balsamic glaze, pommes Anna, pancetta-wrapped roasted asparagus with citrus vinaigrette, plus white chocolate-raspberry tart.

October 13, 2015

Pumpkin Pie from Scratch

Last weekend, we visited Nick's daughter at Eastern Illinois University. It was fun to spend a couple days at my alma mater. It was even more fun to spend time cooking with Jordan. She wanted to make a pumpkin pie from scratch, so we did that on Sunday before driving home.

While it's not difficult to do, I'm not sure that roasting a pumpkin is all that much better than using canned pumpkin puree. Still, it feels good to start with this:

Only the smallest of those pumpkins was harmed in the making of pie.

and end up with this:

Mmmmmm, pie...

September 12, 2015

Shaker Lemon Pie


Summer may finally be releasing its hold. After near-100 degree temps the past couple weeks, this weekend is cool, breezy, blue-skied, and lovely. The temperature always affects my mood, and I've been sweaty and crabby since school started three weeks ago. Right now, however, I am perfectly content as I sit outside drinking coffee and soaking up 60 degree sunshine.

I love the fall so hard...and all I can think about is wanting to pick apples and make pies, spending the afternoon at a winery near the river, and having picnics of crusty breads and cured sausages and pungent cheeses. I want to make hearty pastas and soups and stews. I want to curl up in a blanket next to a campfire with a glass of red wine or a dark beer. You know...all the stereotypical autumny stuff. BRING ON THE PUMPKIN SPICE EVERYTHING!

But, if you're more of a summer person and are lamenting the dying light and warmth, you should make this pie...it's the ultimate bright, sunshiny dessert.

* * *

I was so excited to try this recipe a few months ago, a treat I was taking to our annual Shakespeare in the Park outing. I love tart lemon desserts, and this one sounded so easy...you slice whole lemons, let them candy in sugar overnight, mix with eggs & flour, then bake in a pie crust. 

While it was simple to make, I thought it was too tart and chewy for my taste. The lemons didn't soften as much as I'd hoped, and the texture was just....weird. 


Such is the nature of Shaker Lemon Pie, however, with a filling that is a cross between lemon curd and marmalade. 

Epicurious suggests coarsely chopping the sliced lemons so that the smaller pieces will soften more.

I'll try this recipe again, but next time I'll peel the lemons first to remove the bitter rind and pith. I'm thinking this would work beautifully with winter citrus as well. In fact, I may have to try it with blood oranges in the upcoming months!

Shaker Lemon Pie
recipe from Beth Howard

September 8, 2015

A Chia Pudding Experiment


Sometimes a new recipe that I try is not awesome. This is one of those times.

In looking for some make-ahead breakfast recipes that I could take to school each morning, I decided to try some chia pudding. Pinterest seems to like chia puddings, and they sounded pretty tasty. Chia seeds (which come from a flowering plant in the mint family) are also said to be a mega healthy superfood... rich in omega-3 fatty acids, high in fiber & protein, with lots of calcium & magnesium, low in calories, and loaded with antioxidants.

So, I gave it a shot.

I made two kinds: a simple vanilla pudding with almond-coconut milk (that I ate with granola & dried fruit) and a richer, less sweet chocolate-espresso version (that I topped with whipped cream & raspberries). While the flavors were good, I didn't really like either one. It was the texture that didn't wow me...almost kind of slimy...think tapioca pudding. Yeah, that.

BUT, if you LIKE tapioca pudding then you will probably like chia pudding. If that's the case, it's so easy to make, it's worth trying...so, click through for the recipes I used.

Me? I'll stick with adding chia seeds to my morning smoothies.

Almond-Coconut Chia Pudding


August 13, 2015

Blue Crab Boil


I've been wanting to cook crabs at home ever since I went to Florida in April 2014. I was so excited to eat at a crab shack during that trip, but we drove 45 minutes just to discover that they hadn't caught any crabs that day.

No worries, I thought...I'll buy some live blue crabs at Seafood City when I get home and have my own boil. Sadly, if the Florida fishermen aren't catching any crabs then there will be none in St. Louis either.

Cut to earlier this year: My friend Theresa and I decided we were going to have a crab boil one spring afternoon...but there were only two, pathetic, disabled crustaceans left in the bin. We ended up having dinner at Peacemaker Lobster & Crab Co. instead.

THEN...yesterday, I get this text from Theresa:


But wait. "We could totally do a boil today," I replied. And so, Theresa showed up with 5 pounds of blue crabs, some tiger shrimp, and red potatoes. I supplied the giant stock pot, boil seasoning, lemons, andouille sausage, and beer.

One thing about crabs that you buy at an Asian market....they don't come with rubber bands on their claws. And these were feisty little fellows:


video

It was hard to pick them up...they kept striking out at my tongs, kept grabbing ahold of the tongs, the bag, each other. I ended up getting out the long BBQ tongs to avoid injury.

video

(Yes, I talk to my food. Yes, I cackle-laugh. And, yes, I said "sorry" to each one.)

August 5, 2015

Scotch Eggs


Despite the name, Scotch eggs originated at a department store in London in the 18th century...or so goes one story. Another story is that the idea of cooked eggs wrapped in meat made its way to England via North Africa by way of France. Others say Scotch eggs are an Indian export from the 1600s. Still, many maintain that this recipe is a variation of the Cornish pasty made by northern Scottish pig & chicken farmers.

The name may come from a man by the surname of Scott, who may have originated the recipe in Yorkshire...or the name could be a corruption of the word "scorch," as the eggs were cooked over an open flame in Elizabethan England. Other explanations, from The London Telegraph, are that "the snack's original name was 'scotched egg,' which [...] simply means 'an egg that has had something done to it.' Tom Parker Bowles has a likeable theory to do with the fact that 19th century recipes often included anchovies in the meat: 'Scotch,' for some reason, was a title applied to a number of dishes which contained these salty fishes."

* * *

Scotch eggs always seemed like a daunting recipe to me...a lot of work for a few bites of food. Really, though, they are quite easy to make. I made these, with the help of my (Scottish) boyfriend's sixteen-year-old daughter, on Sunday...and they were given the thumbs-up by the BF and his brother. I ate leftovers for breakfast on Monday. I wish I had more today. 

Scotch Eggs

August 4, 2015

Quick Pickled Jalapeños


As summer is winding down, you may have an abundance of peppers from your garden. What to do with all those jalapeños? You could, of course, make pepper jelly. But, you could also pickle some of those peppers.

If you've never pickled before, don't be afraid...this is surprisingly easy. And with jars of pickled jalapeños in your fridge, you have a reason to make nachos for dinner!

Quick Pickled Jalapeños 
recipe from Eats Well With Others


1 cup white vinegar *
1 cup water
4 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp coriander seeds
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
16 jalapenos, stems trimmed and sliced

* I used apple cider vinegar.

In a large saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, sugar, salt, coriander seeds, and garlic. Bring to a boil, dissolving the sugar and salt. Add the sliced jalapenos to the pan and push down on them so they get submerged in the liquid.

Cover, turn off the heat, and let sit for 10-15 minutes. Transfer the jalapenos and garlic to a mason jar. Pour the pickling juice over them until the jar is full. Cover tightly with the lid & let cool to room temperature. Store in the refrigerator.

Fall 2015 Cooking Classes



Kitchen Conservatory's fall schedule is now available online and runs through December.

I'm teaching a few demonstration classes: Girls' Night Out classes out on August 29, October 17, & December 19 (this one is a champagne-laden menu). I'm also teaching a menu featuring sweet & spicy food on September 19.

My Date Night for Couples classes include a beer pairing on December 7, sushi on November 15, and an ultimate cocktail party on December 20.

One new class that I'm particularly excited about is a sweet & savory brunch on September 6.

I'll also be teaching a couple gingerbread house classes for adults and kids in December.

Below is my schedule. To register, call Kitchen Conservatory at 314-862-2665 or register online.

GIRLS' NIGHT OUT: THIS GIRL IS ON FIRE  - Saturday, August 29 @ 6:30-9:00 pm (demonstration)
  • Enjoy a prosecco cocktail, antipasti with marinated mozzarella and citrus-roasted olives, shrimp scampi with fennel, seared scallops on balsamic-tomato risotto, plus individual limoncello tiramisù.
SUNDAY FUN DAY - Sunday, September 6 @ 1:00-3:30 pm (hands-on)
  • Before we say goodbye to summer, let's celebrate the holiday weekend with exciting sweet and savory dishes. This class will make bourbon kettle corn, chicken and waffles with cornflake-encrusted chicken and bacon-chive waffles served with maple pan gravy, Monte Cristo sliders with strawberry-tomato jam, smashed sweet potatoes with lemon-garlic aïoli, plus apple pie with a cheddar-vodka crust.
ORIGINAL CIN - Saturday, September 19 @ 12:00-2:30 pm (demonstration)
  • Sip on a ginger champagne cocktail, and enjoy Sriracha caramel popcorn, roasted carrot-red quinoa salad with spiced lemon vinaigrette, kung pao shrimp and scallop noodles, plus chai tea cake with cinnamon ice cream.
GIRLS' NIGHT OUT: COLOR ME AUTUMN - Saturday, October 17 @ 6:00-8:30 pm (demonstration)
  • Sip on a maple Manhattan cocktail, then enjoy roasted fennel hummus with red pepper oil and baked pita chips, Brussels sprouts and pear panzanella salad with creamy pomegranate dressing, coq au Riesling, fresh cavatelli pasta with green apple pesto, plus pumpkin gooey butter cake with white chocolate sorbet.
DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: ON THE TOWN FOR TWO - Sunday, October 25 @ 5:00-7:30 (hands-on)
  • We will prepare classic French onion soup, Caesar salad, show-stopping jaw-dropping brandy-flamed steak Diane, roasted garlic-mashed potatoes, plus triple chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream and hot fudge sauce.

July 27, 2015

Shrimp Shumai


I've been wanting to make dim sum at home for a while now. I've made steamed pork buns and potstickers before, but I wanted to try my hand at other kinds of steamed dumplings. So, last night, Nick and his daughter Maggie came over to prepare dinner with me. 

Maggie was in charge of making sesame chicken potstickers, and she did a fabulous job! She also made a spicy peanut dipping sauce (recipe at the end of this post) to go with them.


I was in charge of the shrimp shumai, a recipe that I wanted to test so that I can use it in an upcoming cooking class. 

I was very happy with both of these recipes, and I will definitely make them again. They were much easier and not as tedious as I'd expected. 

Today, I'm using the leftover chicken filling (it makes way more than 20!) to make meatballs that I'll eat with rice and veggies. 

Shrimp Shumai

adapted from Mark Bittman


July 22, 2015

Blueberry-Lemon Pound Cake


Here is another dessert I made recently that was also a big hit. 

I made some food to take to the lake cabin for July 4th weekend....sesame soba noodles, curried chicken salad, and this blueberry-lemon pound cake.

This is a very moist cake, so it's best eaten within a day or two. Also, I highly recommend baking it in a bundt pan instead of a regular cake pan. The first time I made it, in a round cake pan, the middle just didn't quite set before the rest started to burn. You could also divide the batter between 2 loaf pans. 

Blueberry-Lemon Pound Cake


July 15, 2015

S'mores Pie


I love all things s'mores. But, that's face it...nothing "s'mores inspired" (like cupcakes, tarts, cookies, etc.) come close to the real thing.

Except for this pie.

This pie is easy to make and is decadently delicious. It's a very sophisticated way to cure your s'mores craving...especially when it's too rainy (like it was here last month) or too damn hot & humid (like it is now) to build a campfire.

This award-winning recipe comes from Butter & Scotch, a New York bar and bakery, and I made in in a Girls' Night Out class recently at Kitchen Conservatory. It was a hit.

Be sure to use a good quality MILK chocolate; semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate just doesn't replicate the s'mores taste me all know and love. Don't be intimidated by the homemade marshmallow creme. It's very easy to make...and so much better than the jarred version. Trust me.

S'mores Pie


May 27, 2015

Chive Pesto


Several years ago, I planted a small herb garden...with chives, thyme, basil, oregano, and rosemary. Each year since then, the chives and oregano have come back. This year, they are back with a vengeance. So. Many. Chives.

Last year, when the chives threatened to take over the back patio, I planned to make a fancy chive quiche...with the thin stalks and flowers placed artfully on top. That never happened. I let the herbs wither and die instead, only cutting off some here and there for salads and such. That quiche may happen this week, though.

Yesterday, I cut off half of the chives and made pesto. It's fairly easy....blitz 4 cups of chopped chives (the flowers are edible, too) with 1/4 cup almonds, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, 1 garlic clove, juice of 1 lemon, 1/2 cup of olive oil (or more to reach desired consistency), salt & pepper (to taste).

This stuff is LIKE WHOA STRONG. Really potent onion flavor and bit of a spicy sting. Next time, I would add lemon zest with the juice and a handful or two of spinach to mellow it out.

Nevertheless, this pesto is quite tasty. I ate some spooned over seared cod for dinner.


Here's what I plan to do with the rest, because it made about 2 cups:

Mix it into softened butter for toast.
Scramble into eggs.
Blend with sour cream for dip.
Spread on sandwiches.
Whisk into salad dressing.
Toss with hot pasta.
Stir into hot rice.
Drizzle over grilled meat or fish.
Use as a pizza sauce.
Add to chicken or tuna salad.
Make ricotta-chive gnocchi.

Now, I just need to decide what to do with all that oregano...

May 3, 2015

Summer 2015 Cooking Classes




SUMMERTIME! I'm so ready for a break and looking forward to a fun summer...which includes teaching new cooking classes. 

Some new menus include a summer supper for couples (June 12), a dessert & cocktail pairing demo class (June 26), a class all about miso (July 18), two Girls' Night Out classes (August 29 & September 12), a sweet & savory Sunday brunch (September 6), and a spicy lunch (September 19)

Below is my schedule through September. To register, call Kitchen Conservatory at 314-862-2665 or register online.

DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: AN A-FARE TO REMEMBER - Sunday, June 7 @ 5:00-7:30 pm (hands-on).

  • Discover the fun of cooking together, as this class prepares grilled panzanella salad, rosemary fried chicken, mac-and-cheese with peas and bacon, ratatouille, plus caramel apple galette, with two remarkable beer pairings ideal for dinner and dessert.

DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: SUMMER LOVIN' - Friday, June 12 @ 6:00-8:30 pm (hans-on)
  • Grab your partner and fall in love with the smells and flavors of summertime. This class will create "BLT" bruschetta with pepper-jelly bacon and tomato jam, classic Caesar salad with smoky shrimp and zucchini, grilled spatchcock chicken with bourbon barbecue sauce, crispy and cheesy hasselback roasted potatoes, plus blueberry pound cake with lemon glaze and limoncello gelato.

GIRLS' NIGHT OUT: BUTTER + SCOTCH - Friday, June 26 @ 6:00-8:30 (demonstration)
  • Inspired by a trendy New York retro-style cafe and bar that serves cupcakes and cocktails, I will serve up an outstanding selection of sips and sweets. Enjoy butterscotch cupcakes with scotch-lemonade punch, raspberry-bourbon gelatin shooters - because Jello shots are the original dessert and booze pairing, ginger-lime-rum Dark & Stormy popcorn served with its namesake cocktail, s'mores pie with vanilla-orange prosecco cocktail, plus honey-nut shortbread with an espresso martini.
DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: HIGH STEAKS - Sunday, July 5 @5:00-7:30 (hands-on)
  • This class will create bruschetta with seasonal fruit, brie and fennel-infused honey, smoked lentil salad with creamy Sriracha dressing, cedar-grilled flat iron steaks with cayenne-coffee rub, sweet potato and goat cheese "tater tots", bacon-wrapped green beans with brown sugar and garlic butter, plus salted caramel pots de crème.
DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE BEERS - Friday, July 10 @ 6:00-8:30 (hands-on)
  • Join  me (aka"goldie" locks) in a fun class that prepare beer cheese fondue with soft pretzels, local lager with spicy Sriracha chicken wings, fruity Belgian wheat beer with grilled scallops and corn salad, plus creamy stout with chocolate hazelnut cake and vanilla ice cream.
SATURDAY NIGHT SUSHI - Saturday, July 25 @ 6:30-9:00 (hands-on)

  • Menu includes tempura vegetables, miso soup, edamame salad with ginger-soy dressing, crab and mango inside-out rolls with teriyaki glaze, spicy tuna hand rolls, crunchy shrimp rolls with avocado-chile cream, and sweet plum ice cream.

April 12, 2015

Cinnamon-Currant Rolls


I keep multiple lists of recipes I want to make. Cinnamon rolls, all kinds of cinnamon rolls--traditional, bacon-caramel, lemon-blueberry, raspberry-almond--appear on those lists. I've never made them before because they've always seemed so...daunting. It's that dough phobia of mine again.

Last Friday, when I felt like spending a few hours in the kitchen, I finally made one of those cinnamon roll recipes.

When I approach a new dish, I usually follow the recipe verbatim. I usually tweak the ingredients or amounts the second time around. This recipe was much easier than I expected, but I would play around with it next time. It was way too sweet and rich. I'd cut back the amount of sugar in the filling and not use as much butter in the icing. 

Still, they were pretty delicious...decadently so. 

Cinnamon-Currant Rolls
adapted from Lauren's Latest


April 5, 2015

Shepherd's Pie


Why have I never made Shepherd's Pie before? I wonder because I made it for dinner on Friday--a cold, rainy Spring evening--and now I want to eat it every day. 

Disclaimer: I actually only made this to impress my dead sexy Scottish boyfriend. I think it worked. *fingers crossed*

According to Cook's Info, "Shepherd's Pie probably originated in Scotland and in the north of England. Originally, it was made from chunks of meat, probably leftover from a roast. [...] The dish as we know it, though, couldn't have originated before potatoes became generally accepted in the UK, which wasn't until the end of the 1700s. Before that, the dish--or a very similar one--was made in Scotland but topped with a pastry crust instead of mashed potato. The name [Shepherd's Pie] appeared in the 1870s." 

This dish is called Shepherd's Pie when it's made with lamb, Cottage Pie when it's made with beef. But with ground lamb readily available in most major supermarkets and farmers markets these days, why wouldn't you use lamb? 

Besides, it's just so Eastery and Springy. A perfect dinner for those chilly April nights. 

Shepherd's Pie
slightly adapted from Alton Brown

March 30, 2015

Labneh with Olives, Hazelnuts, and Mint


Spring is finally here. My daffodils are blooming. The trees and bushes are budding. Green grass is poking through the lawn. I feel like spring is the time the entire planet exhales after a long winter, releasing all the pent up tension of the past three months. Usually, I hold my breath all winter long....waiting for the next bout of depression, the next panic attack.

Usually.

This winter has been much different. Thankfully. Since December, there hasn't been as much sadness or anxiety. I've taken deeper breaths of life. So, this spring has a different feel as well. Instead of relief that another cold, dark winter has passed, I feel energized by the longer days and warmer sunshine.

Just as the earth renews itself in spring, I feel renewed every time I cook. It's the creating something that is so worthwhile for me. (That's also why I've been so into knitting lately...the creation of something new.)

So, when I needed to do some creating in the kitchen, I decided to make cheese.

Labneh is a Middle Eastern cheese made by straining yogurt. Draining out the whey results in creamy, soft curds that retain the tanginess of the yogurt. Labneh is typically drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with mint, and served with pita seasoned with za'atar (a blend of oregano, thyme, marjoram, and savory, sesame seeds, and sumac).

I topped my homemade cheese with a salty, sour, crunchy, fragrant mixture of olives, lemon, hazelnuts, and mint. Easy and impressive.

Labneh with Olives, Hazelnuts, and Mint
slightly adapted from The Design Files

February 12, 2015

Farro Risotto with Butternut & Kale


This is a photo of Sean Brock's Farrotto with Acorn Squash and Red Russian Kale from his new cookbook Heritage. I've had my eye on this recipe since I got the book in October. And last night, I finally made it.

Farrotto is essentially farro, an ancient wheat variety, cooked slowly with stock like risotto. It gets creamy with a nutty, chewy texture. It's a pretty hearty dish, but better for you than arborio rice. Apparently, "it’s rich in the cyanogenic glucosides that stimulate the immune system, regulate blood sugar levels, and lower cholesterol."

I didn't follow Brock's recipe exactly--because I am so horrible about following recipes & it was a week night--but my slightly altered version was quite delicious. Brock calls for toasting the farro in the oven and roasting the squash then pureeing it. I toasted the farro on the stovetop and just sautéed the squash in some olive oil with the onions & garlic. I didn't mind the chunkier texture. I seasoned the cooked farro with Herbs de Provence and added a little sour cream to finish the dish.

I served the farrotto with a piece of simply seared cod on top (seasoned with salt & pepper and finished with lemon juice & butter).

I don't have any pictures of my dish because I was too busy being smitten and googly-eyed over my new guy (together 10 weeks tomorrow, y'all), who came over for dinner. 

February 9, 2015

Spring 2015 Cooking Class Schedule


My upcoming classes include a few new menus: a Mother's Day brunch on May 10 (two words: doughnut muffins), a sushi class on May 16, and a Girls' Night Out class featuring dessert and cocktail pairings (two words: jello shots) on June 26 (two more words: butterscotch cupcakes).

I have several Date Night for Couples classes, including a beer pairing class (March 29), a steak class (April 12), a comfort foods menu with rosemary fried chicken & caramel apple pie (June 7), and a summer supper featuring grilled chicken with bourbon bbq sauce (June 12).

I'm also teaching my popular Harry Potter kids' class (which is sold out for the next 3 classes scheduled this spring) again on June 28.

Below is my schedule through June. To register, call Kitchen Conservatory at 314-862-2665 or register online.

DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE BEERS - Sunday, March 29 @ 5:00-7:30 (hands on)
  • We'll prepare beer cheese fondue with soft pretzels, local lager with spicy sriracha chicken wings, fruity Belgian wheat beer with grilled scallops and Mexican corn salad, plus creamy stout with chocolate hazelnut cake & vanilla ice cream.
TOOL TIME: VITAMIX - THE REAL POWER TOOL -  Saturday, April 11 @ 12:00-2:30 (hands-on)
  • Whether you own a Vitamix or are thinking about adding this powerful tool to your kitchen, this hands-on class is designed to optimize its strength, from piping hot soups to refreshing smoothies. We'll make blueberry-banana oatmeal smoothies, vanilla coffee frappé, horseradish cheese dip with baked pita chips, antipasto salad with Italian dressing, bread with freshly-made butter, avocado-tortilla soup, pasta with basil pesto and sun-dried tomato sauce, plus almond-peach sorbet.
DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: HIGH STEAKS - Sunday, April 12 @ 5:00-7:30 (hands-on)
  • Bruschetta with seasonal fruit, brie and fennel-infused honey, smoked lentil salad with creamy sriracha dressing, cedar-grilled flat iron steaks with cayenne-coffee rub, sweet potato and goat cheese "tater tots", bacon-wrapped green beans with brown sugar and garlic butter, plus salted caramel pots de crème.
DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: LIFE IS A CABERNET - Sunday, April 26 @ 5:00-7:30 (hands-on)
  • Learn to cook with the wonderful flavors of wine in this class where you'll prepare mushroom-red pepper salad with red wine-herb vinaigrette, oven-roasted beef tenderloin with roasted red grape wine sauce, homemade black pepper fettuccine with chardonnay cream sauce, plus fabulous flourless chocolate-red wine cake with rosemary ganache -- all enjoyed with a glass of cabernet wine.
MOM'S THE WORD - Sunday, May 10 @ 1:00-3:30 (hands-on)
  • Surprise Mom with a unique celebration of her day, as this class creates a tasty brunch of bacon waffle Benedict Florentine with hollandaise sauce, maple-glazed pork and apple meatballs, goat cheese Monte Cristo sandwiches, crispy herbed potato cakes, cinnamon-sugar doughnut muffins with espresso gelato, plus a grapefruit-mint mimosa.
MISO HUNGRY FOR SUSHI - Saturday, May 16 @ 11:00-1:30 (hands-on)
  • Tempura vegetables, miso soup, edamame salad with ginger-soy dressing, crab and mango inside-out rolls with teriyaki glaze, spicy tuna hand rolls, crunchy shrimp rolls with avocado-chile cream, & sweet plum ice cream.
DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: AN A-FARE TO REMEMBER - Sunday, June 7 @ 5:00-7:30 (hands-on)
  • Discover the fun of cooking together, as this hands-on class prepares grilled panzanella salad, rosemary fried chicken, mac-and-cheese with peas and bacon, ratatouille, plus caramel apple galette, with two remarkable beer pairings ideal for dinner and dessert.
DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: SUMMER LOVIN' - Friday, June 12 @ 6:00-8:30 (hands-on)
  • Grab your partner and fall in love with the smells and flavors of summertime. This class will create "BLT" bruschetta with pepper-jelly bacon and tomato jam, classic Caesar salad with smoky shrimp and zucchini, grilled spatchcock chicken with bourbon barbecue sauce, crispy and cheesy hasselback roasted potatoes, plus blueberry pound cake with lemon glaze and limoncello gelato.
GIRLS' NIGHT OUT: BUTTER + SCOTCH - Friday, June 26 @ 6:00-8:30 (demonstration)
  • Inspired by a trendy New York retro-style cafe and bar that serves cupcakes and cocktails, I'll serve up an outstanding selection of sips and sweets. Enjoy butterscotch cupcakes with scotch-lemonade punch, raspberry-bourbon gelatin shooters (because Jello shots are the original dessert and booze pairing), "Dark & Stormy" popcorn flavored with ginger, lime, & rum served with its namesake cocktail, s'mores pie with vanilla-orange prosecco cocktail, plus honey-nut shortbread with an espresso martini.