Valentine's Day Cooking Class

For something different than the usual dinner at a restaurant for Valentine’s Day, we signed up for a Publix Aprons Cooking School class. We’ve enjoyed these before, and the night’s menu looked appealing. It was a popular choice. The place was full with 48 people present to watch the demo-style class.
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As we waited for the show to start, one of the chefs poured us each a welcome glass of Cupcake Sparkling Rosé wine. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I grew up on rosés before learning to appreciate drier varieties. Remember Lancer’s?
First course was a Pistachio Shortbread with Goat Cheese, Strawberries, and Mint-Honey paired with a Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc. This was almost like dessert. The shortbread was a tasty cookie. The wine went well with this selection but it was a bit too fruity for my taste. I’d like it better before dinner.
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The next course was really good and very hearty. I could have made a meal out of this alone. We got a generous portion of Seared Sea Scallop Chowder with Smoky Sourdough Croutons paired with Bread & Butter Chardonnay. This wine went on my “I Like It” list. The soup was delicious. You could vary the recipe at home and make it with shrimp or lobster instead. If you use scallops, remove the abductor muscle from the sides.
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The main dish showed me a cooking technique I’d never heard of before. It used a temperature-regulated water bath. You insert the food in a vacuum sealed plastic bag, so you’d also need the vacuum device. I’ll never make this at home with all the extra equipment required, but the meat was tasty and tender. The dark things are purple potatoes. Sous Vide Lamb Loin with Butter-Roasted Radishes, Carrots, and Baby Potatoes paired with a La Crema Pinot Noir. I liked the dry red wine. Tip for pearl onions: cut off the bottoms and blanch in boiling water for a minute, and the skin peels right off.
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The dessert, a Butterscotch-Toffee Budino (pudding) was paired with a Veuve Cliequot Brut Champagne. Apparently, the tinier the bubbles, the more expensive the brand. This one had lots of tiny bubbles. The pudding was like a dense flan, a rich dessert that melts in your mouth.
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We had a gourmet meal and wine for a decent price, plus we got to see an entertaining cooking demo and take home the recipes. Let’s check their calendar and see what’s appealing that is coming up next.
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Chicken Basque

1-1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 2 inch chunks
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
2 cloves garlic, minced
14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
1 lb. red potatoes, cut into bite-size chunks
1 can chicken broth
¼ tsp. each dried thyme and dried savory
1 small jar diced pimento, drained

In a Dutch oven, heat oil. Add chicken and brown on all sides. Add onion and red pepper. Cook until slightly wilted. Add garlic and stir. Add the remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until chicken and potatoes are tender. Makes 6 servings.

Cauliflower Couscous

½ cup dried apricots, cut into quarters
1 lb. cauliflower rice
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ package baby spinach
1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
½ cup walnuts, chopped
½ cup green onions, sliced

In a small bowl, put the apricots and cover with boiling water for at least 10 minutes. Drain before using.

In a large pot or skillet, heat 1Tbsp. olive oil and 1Tbsp. butter. Add onion and cook until wilted. Add garlic and stir. Add cauliflower and cook for several minutes, stirring occasionally. Mix in apricots, spinach, chickpeas, chopped nuts, green onions. Stir in remaining olive oil and butter. Heat and serve. Serves six.

Aprons Cooking School

Publix Cooking Class
We always enjoy the cooking classes at Publix Aprons Cooking School. You can choose between demo classes, where the chefs do all the work, or hands-on where you don the aprons. My husband and I like the demos. We sit at white clothed tables and follow along with our set of printed recipes while the chefs explain each preparation method. For our latest class, they started us off with a welcome glass of Chateau St. Michelle Pinot Gris. I liked this light golden white wine.
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The first dish was an Apple Pear salad. As one chef showed us how to prepare the ingredients and mix the dressing, two other guys dished out the food onto a series of plates for serving. The salad was delicious, a balance of sweet to the tang of blue cheese. This was paired with a Chateau St. Michelle Sauvignon Blanc. It was too fruity for my taste.
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Next we enjoyed an Alaskan Salmon Terrine with Asparagus Sauce. We always learn tricks of the trade or new info at these events, and tonight we learned about salmon. Here are the five different types/grades from the top rating down: King, Sockeye, Coho, Keta, and Pink. Keta (from the Arctic) has more oil than Sockeye so is good for grilling. (Any mistakes here are due to my misinterpretation.) Sockeye is never farmed. This dish, that looked like a paté, reminded me of gefilte fish. The asparagus sauce was a very good accompaniment as was the Chateau St. Michelle Chardonnay served with it.
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For the main entrée, we had Cedar Plank Wild-Caught Salmon, along with a Couscous side dish that contained corn and cilantro. I’m not a cilantro fan and the couscous was from a mix, so I’d probably choose another flavor. I did learn that if you want to take the kernels off a stick of corn, hold the corn on top of a bundt pan in the center hole, and then scrape downward. I’d also have preferred this fish to come with a sauce so it wasn’t so plain. The Chateau St. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon won my approval. Yes, we had a red wine with fish, and it worked fine.
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Dessert was homemade cheesecake with raspberry sauce. What’s not to like?
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You can see cooking lesson videos for yourself at https://www.youtube.com/user/LightsCameraCook/videos or check out the Publix cooking schools here: http://www.publix.com/recipes-planning/aprons-cooking-schools.
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Spaghetti Surprise

Last weekend’s dinner was one of my favorite dishes. It’s easy to make when you don’t feel much like cooking. This recipe requires that you have several basics on hand, but it’s called a “surprise” because that’s exactly what’s in it. You are using whatever foods you have in your pantry or refrigerator that you wish to use up.

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I started out by cooking a package of whole wheat angel hair pasta that we had in stock. You can use any kind of pasta or rice that you have on hand. Ditto for the veggies. Canned or frozen vegetables will work. I used canned chicken, but you could also substitute canned tuna. Any kind of shredded cheese or grated Parmesan will do. My husband wanted tomato sauce, but you could use Healthy Choice Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup, Cream of Chicken Soup, or Cream of Celery Soup instead. Oh, and I threw in some fresh chopped basil and chopped onions. Other items I might add are a small jar of pimento or sliced water chestnuts for crunch. A can of diced tomatoes might be another addition, especially if you are using a soup for moisture instead of a tomato-based sauce. A splash of white wine could also provide moisture.

16 oz. package whole wheat angel hair pasta, cooked and drained
1 can chicken breast, drained and flaked
1 large can corn
1 large can peas and carrots
1 jar tomato basil sauce
Shredded cheddar cheese
Fresh chopped basil
Fresh chopped onions
Sliced almonds

What’s in your kitchen that you could mix into a casserole?

 

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Asparagus Cheese Pockets

½ pound fresh asparagus, microwaved until tender and cut into half-inch pieces
3 oz. package cream cheese, softened
1 Tbsp. low-fat milk
1 to 2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. chopped onion
1 Tbsp. drained pimento, diced
8 oz. tube refrigerated crescent rolls
Non-stick olive oil spray

Preheat oven to 375°. In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, milk, and mayonnaise until smooth. Add in the onions and pimento. (You may make this the day before and refrigerate). Unroll the crescent dough into eight separate triangles. Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Spread cream cheese mixture onto each triangle. Sprinkle asparagus on top of mixture. Fold corners of dough together to hold filling inside. Lightly coat prepared pockets with cooking spray. Bake until browned, about 15 to 20 minutes. Yields 8 servings.

Baked Egg Rolls

1 pound package frozen broccoli stir-fry vegetable blend
1 cup shredded cooked chicken
4-1/2 tsp. low-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp. sesame oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ tsp. ground ginger
½ of a 16 oz. package all-purpose pasta or egg roll wrappers
1 egg, beaten
1 jar of plum sauce

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a bowl, combine ½ package chopped, defrosted vegetables, chicken, soy sauce, sesame oil and spices. Place 1/4 cup mixture into the center of each wrapper. Fold bottom corner over filling then fold two sides toward the center. Moisten flap of remaining corner with beaten egg and seal. Place egg rolls seam side down on a greased baking sheet. Spray tops of wrappers with nonstick cooking spray or brush with beaten egg.

Bake in 425 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, or until browned. Makes 8 servings. Recipe may be doubled. Serve warm with plum sauce.