Monthly Archives: February 2011

Cooking class: the prep

As with any majorly fun event in my life, I am approaching the recap of the cooking class in installments. For those of you who are new here *waving enthusiastically*, my friend Cassia and I taught a cooking class two Fridays ago to 20 lovely women from our church as part of our Women’s Ministry series. Or was it 18 women plus me and Cassia? Who knows! Anyway, since neither of us are professional cooks and neither of us had done anything remotely like this in the past, we tried our best to ready ourselves by experimenting with recipes on our own, and then coming together to do a dry run the weekend before. But nothing could have prepared us for the fun, chaotic, exhausting, joyous, sweaty, overwhelming and wonderful experience it was going to be.

Today I bring you pictures of the prep work, which started at 12 when Cassia picked me up from work. Full of vim and vigor, we headed to the grocery store. Hundreds of dollars later, we had a cart chock full of goodies:

As you can tell, we were quite excited.

In order to fit all the groceries in the trunk of Cassia’s cute little yellow car, we had to lower the seat. And let me use this opportunity to share my favorite new expression: Cram it in the boot!

‘Boot’ is the Britishism for ‘trunk.’ It’s such a funny expression–really, you should say it out loud. You’ll probably start laughing. Cram it in the boot! Cram it in the boot!

Wow, I am seriously cracking up over here.

With me, it doesn’t take much.

Anyway! Our next stop was a lovely wine shop called Lush.

The woman working there was so helpful, and recommended wine pairings for each of our courses. I never realized you could just waltz into a wine shop and ask them to tell you what wine to get. How convenient!

I don’t know why I didn’t realize this before–after all, they are trained professionals.

By the way, check out those awesome chandeliers made with wine glasses. What a great idea!

Cassia made the final wine selections, including this lovely bottle for our ‘personal use.’

We figured we had hours of work ahead of us, and a nice smooth red would help moves things along, so to speak. After all, the cooks must be taken care of.

Lush had designated shelves full of wines all under $10–perfect!

We arrived at Traci’s house around 1:30. Since the event was scheduled to start at 6:30, we figured we would have oodles of time to spare.


Our first task was to organize all the groceries between the fridge, the pantry, and the counter, chill the wine, and decide what we needed to cook first: we needed a play-by-play game plan.

I thought we would be swimming in space in Traci’s large and gorgeous kitchen, but once the groceries were laid out, the space seemed oddly smaller. But there was no time to contemplate that, because it was time to cook! We started out by making the components for the Fruit Pizza, baking up rounds of sugar cookie dough for each lady to make her own individual pizza, and mixing up a simple cream cheese frosting.

The first small fiasco occurred when I attempted to soften a couple sticks of butter and instead inundated Traci’s microwave with melted butter. Lesson learned: microwave power varies from machine to machine. I wanted to take a picture to show you my misadventure (to encourage the whole ‘laughing with me’ thing), but my hands were covered in grease, and my Nikon was looking at me reproachfully.

Don’t you touch me with those buttery fingers! warned the 18-50mm lens.

I focused on the Fruit Pizza side of things while Cassia started to make a triple recipe of Roasted Red Pepper Soup.

I’ve never seen so many red peppers together in my life–I think we spent about $40 on red peppers alone. Phew!

And that picture only shows 15 of them–there were 24 total. Yowza.

We had six lovely birds to cook up and 1 1/2 ovens in which to accomplish this, so we planned on making 3 in advance, and 3 during the class itself.

Hello, little winged friends!

You’re looking mighty tasty. Let’s stuff this chicken with lemon and garlic.

Cram it in the boot!

While the chickens were roasting, it was time for a 10 minute breather and a cuppa red.

Traci’s precious daughters wandered in and out of the kitchen.

I took a handful of pictures of them that I can’t wait to show you tomorrow. They are the most beautiful and adorable girls–the kind of kids that make me want to have kids immediately. Kids with sprinklings of freckles like Bronagh’s and kids with headfuls of rampant curls like Ashling’s.

Traci and Jamie worked steadily as well, setting tables and making a run to the store for some paper products. Thank heavens for those paper products–there were enough dishes without ‘real’ plates to keep us busy for a couple hours after the event.

Hi Jamie! You were invaluable. And amazing. And you did a great job assembling those little recipe packets. I would also like to take this chance to dub you ‘The Dishes Warrior.’ I think you probably washed over 100 dishes. Maybe 1,000, I don’t know.

As 6:30 drew nearer, Traci and Jamie set three beautiful tables to accomodate the lot of us. Meanwhile, Cassia and I laid the ingredients out in groupings by recipe, gathering all the equipment we’d need to cook them.

We also had some problem-solving to do: where the heck are we going to put 6 roasted chickens without consuming the counter space? How are we going to make 4 batches of brussel sprouts when we only have 2 burners available? How are we going to handle the wine tasting during the meal when there are 3 separate tables but only 2 bottles of each wine?

The stove, piled high with pots and pans, girded its loins as if for battle.

Whoever uses the most burners . . . wins!

I win.

Here’s the ingredient grouping for the polenta and for the rosemary garlic lemon chicken (minus the chicken)–it looks like chaos, but a trained eye will soon see order.

My eye must have un-trained itself between then and now, because all I’m getting from this picture is confusion. Hmmmm. All that comes to mind is . . .

Cram it in the boot!

Sorry, that’s the last time I’ll say it.

If you’re lucky. Heh heh.

The counter was set with a cutting board for Cassia and me and 7 cutting board ‘stations’ for the ladies to share. The brussel sprouts were distributed among the stations, along with carrots and celery for the short, introductory knife skills lesson.

The knives were glinting, sharp and ready to be put to work.

Traci and Jamie set out snacks and finger food–have I mentioned that I eat wasabi peas like an addict?

And finally: everything was ready.

Cassia and I collapsed onto the couch around 6:15 and finished off the wine. (And technically, this picture was taken hours earlier during our breather, but the narrative demanded that it be placed here.)

The hard part is over,” I told myself as I nonchalantly ate another handful of wasabi peas. “The women will do the actual cooking; we just have to tell them what to do. Everything is organized, we’ll just effortlessly float through the recipes, and we should be sitting down to eat by 8:30 at the latest.”


The expression ‘little did she know’ would be quite apt at this narrative juncture.

To be continued . . .

A blog and a baby

Important family update!

My blonderrific sister Erica now has a blog.

It’s called “At Home and Away: making a home wherever we go ~ an army wife’s adventures.” She just wrote her first post about a week ago, and I am so excited to have a new way of keeping in touch with her. Spying on her every doing. Stalking her every moment.

She’s too gorgeous for her own galoshes.

And I don’t just keep her around for her looks, folks. She’s also extremely crafty/artistic/creative: she’s going to be sewing Regency-style gowns for me and my friend Carrie and documenting the progress on her blog. Yep–Carrie and I (with our stocking-ed and cravat-ed men in tow) are going to a Regency Ball in late March.

And if that brands us as dorks, then let it be so. Seriously, dorkedom provides a series of fringe benefits that I’ll have to share with you ‘cool people’ some time.

Like talking about religion and politics into the night with old friends.

(Or is that nerds?)

And not having to shave my legs very regularly.

(Or it that hippies?)

And pouring over online reviews of different kinds of knives.

(Or is that foodies?)

Okay, so maybe I’m a dork, nerd, hippie, and foodie–but seriously folks. Enough with the labeling. And I should clarify that the whole ‘neglecting to shave my legs’ thing only happens in the winter, and stops the moment my husband starts weeping from the sheer monstrosity of it all. Which he hasn’t done . . . yet.

But let’s move on.

Remember this one?

My lovely ballet-dancing, Pilates-instructing sister Heidi?

Well, she had her baby! His name is James, and he is almost 1 1/2 months old.

Apparently all he does is sleep and poop and nurse. Let’s pick it up, kid! Let’s start walking and talking! There’s no time to lose! That’s what I plan on telling him when I get to meet him. Enough with all this baby stuff–let’s get you started on quadratic equations. Quantum mechanics. Bridge-building classes. I take my aunting responsibilities very seriously. In fact, I’ve already filled out his college application to Harvard and paid the application fee. You’re welcome, Heidi–this kid’s going to be on the cutting edge.

What? You mean you enjoy this stage of his life? This snoozy stage during which he has no apparent control of his facial expressions?


Okay, he is monstrously cute, I’ll give him that.

Especially in those adorable little PJ’s. Fine. We’ll save quadratic equations for his next visit.

I yanked these pictures of the little guy from facebook, but as soon as he steps foot or butt into my apartment, it’s photo shoot time! I can’t wait to get clickity-clicking, recording his every waking moment with my Nikon.

A blog and a baby. I’m telling you, this family is exploding with new happenings.