Monday, January 30, 2012

Le Cordon Bleu

This past Saturday I attended a cooking class at the California Culinary Academy (CCA) in San Francisco with my husband Chris and our oldest son, Christopher.  The weather in the City by the Bay was absolutely gorgeous! There were hundreds of sailboats on the water and the sky was blue and clear! 
My husband Chris turned 50 last November and the family’s gift to him was six Master Chef Cooking Classes taught by Le Cordon Bleu Chefs.  Chris loves to cook and does the majority of the cooking in our home.  (You can read about his love of cooking here.) Chris thought it would be fun to have Chris and I attend the class as well, so we also enrolled.
At the CCA there are a variety of classes to choose from. For his first class Chris picked: Culinary 101 – Basic Cooking Techniques.  It was a hands-on course and we were taught basic cooking techniques including sauté, poach, fry, grill and pan roast.  Even though we have all been cooking for a long time, it was nice to be taught the “right” way to do these things.  We received aprons that we got to take home with us and certificates of completion.  The class was three hours and we had an awesome instructor  - Chef Alan Calhoun.

We learned a lot about salt and the proper way to salt and season your food.  We tasted red, black, kosher and Punjabi salt. Most of us do not salt enough when we are cooking. We should salt before, during and after the cooking process to make sure the food is seasoned properly.  For example: when boiling water to blanch vegetables or boil pasta, the water should “taste like the ocean” and believe me, when we salted the water to blanch green beans, Chris added probably ¼ cup of kosher salt to the water and it really did taste like the ocean. And when the beans had been blanched and removed from the water you could really taste the salt and it gave a great fresh flavor to the green bean!
The class had 16 people in attendance and we worked in groups of four to prepare the meal.  Chris and I prepared green beans with bacon, onion and red bell pepper.  Christopher was in the Pork group. His group made the best pork shoulder with cipollini onions roasted in wine and honey – oh my goodness was it good!
Be prepared - I was TOTALLY camera happy!
Chris, Chef Calhoun, Christopher

 Getting started and reviewing our recipes.

I learned how to core a red bell pepper without waste and to julienne the pepper.  We learned how to cut half an onion in a fan shape so all the pieces are the same size.  We learned the best way to slice bacon so it cooks evenly and also if you cut green beans diagonally they look more elegant and sexy. We used Blue Lake Green Beans, which are more economical and have a better flavor than Haricot Vert (French green beans that are long and thin).  We learned to blanch the beans in boiling, salted water until they are crisp tender and then shock them in ice water to stop the cooking (this is something that Chris already does.)  We fried the bacon pieces and then used some of the bacon fat to sauté the peppers and onions (and seasoned with the salt and pepper) and then added the green beans to heat through and salted again just before serving. I know this sounds like a lot of salt, but they were absolutely delicious and not too salty at all.
The boys peeling and chopping their onions

My green beans and my bell pepper all cored
Christopher learned the different parts of the pig and how to remove the membrane on the back of the ribs so they cook better, are more tender and easier to eat.  His group seasoned the pork with salt, pepper and a bit of olive oil and roasted them in the oven.  The cipollini onions were cook with wine and honey and were delicious and sweet.  The onions and sauce were poured over the pork.  We also had marinated, grilled flank steak, scalloped potatoes with cream, butter and Gruyere cheese, roasted potatoes with garlic and parsley and for dessert Poached apples in Port with cinnamon and topped with crème fraiche and gingersnap crumbles.  Can you say “stuffed to the gills!”  The meal was absolutely delicious!

Chef Calhoun discussing the different areas of the pig and showing how to remove the tough part of the ribs. 

  Blanched green beans ready to be shocked and bacon! Can you say YUMMO!

The couple on the right are Bridget and Brady - they cooked with Chris and I and were a fun couple. 

Finished green beans with onions and peppers and the scalloped potatoes getting their sauce and cheese and ready for the oven.
 We also learned how to do a few garnishes.  This is Chris making carrot flowers.

These are the garnishes Chef Alan made. The potato is supposed to be a mushroom but it wouldn't stand up. The swan is made from an apple.
Finished potatoes and grilled flank steak
Finished Pork Roast with Cipollini Onions roasted in honey and wine and the Oven Roasted Potatoes with garlic and parsley!

Poached apples in Port with Cinnamon and topped with Creme' Fraiche and Gingersnaps

We had a great time; learned a lot, tasted a lot, ate a lot and pretty much were in a food coma by the time the day was over.   We had so much fun we are planning on doing it again.  The next class Chris wants to take is “Taste of Italy” where will learn to make tomato sauce and pasta from scratch. Doesn’t that sound delicious!
Bon Appetit'!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Happy Birthday Sweet Roxy!

Today is our sweet Roxy's 12th birthday.  She's my girl. We have three dogs at our house - Roxy, Calli and Lily and they all have different personalities and all think they are the "Queen" of our castle.  Since Roxy is the oldest I guess that makes her the Queen.

Roxy was a rescue dog of sorts.  My sister had a friend, who knew a friend whose dog had puppies and didn't really want them. In fact, probably was going to take them to the pound - so we brought Roxy into our home.  She is a Border Collie / Spitz mix, but has most of the Border Collie characteristics.  As a puppy and younger dog she loved to run and catch a ball and bring it back to you and would play for hours. We would also throw a Frisbee and she'd run and jump and catch it in mid-air too. But her hips have been bothering her these last 6 months or so and she's not able to play as much - but she does try!

Roxy and Calli travel with us when we go camping. They've been all over Northern California and have their own spots in our trailer and truck.  They love to be outdoors. Roxy isn't crazy about water and will avoid it as much as she can.  Calli is 8 and a Black Lab who loves the water.  Lily is a newer addition to our family and belongs to our son Tim and we don't have any pictures of her yet.

These dogs are a huge part of our family and our lives would be empty without them. They comfort me when I'm down and make me laugh when I need it. They greet me at the door every time I come home with wagging tails and lovey kisses. They love their "cookies" and I have to spell the word "treat" or they will run to the pantry wanting one. 

Dunsmuir 2010

 Dunsmuir 2010 in the snow.

Lake of the Springs - 2009

Puppy days with "Daddy" - 2000

 Lake Sisykiyou - 2010

 Calli playing in the river in Dunsmuir

 Beautiful Calli

Lake of the Springs - 2009

Happy Birthday to our sweet girl! She'll have extra "cookies" tonight and lots of love!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

After Christmas Sew Along 2012!

Karen over at Sewmuch2luv is sponsoring an "After Christmas Sew Along" which started January 2nd. The rules are simple:  sew anything I wanted to sew just for the joy of sewing - it could even be a jump start on gifts for Christmas 2012 if I wanted! 

The Sew Along will last for 4 weeks and each week we post a picture of the project we've completed on the Flickr group.  A winner will be chosen at random every Friday evening.  And the prizes are totally yummy from great vendors!

It has been fun to see all the wonderfully, delicious, crafty goodness from all parts of the country and even the world! I've finished two projects so far - 1 for my grandson and 1 for me.

 Pillowcases and a matching pillow for my grandson - Christopher

 Loving the dinosaurs!

 Little Christmas Gift Bag from "Sweetwater."  Don't you love it!?

Next week I will work on and hopefully finish, a Christmas table runner - just in time for Christmas 2012!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year and many blessings from my family to yours!
My wish for you is that 
2012 will be the BEST EVER!