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Monday, March 28, 2011

Volunteer Chef

I have been a volunteer chef with the Cooking Matters organization for the past couple of years. Cooking Matters is a program affiliated with Share Our Strength and is designed to teach adults, families and children about healthy eating on a budget. The course covers nutrition, food shopping, discussions on eating healthy food, and of course how to cook in a healthy way.

Last week I completed another 6-week session with a group of seniors. They really enjoy the classes and always enjoy the food. Over the course of the class, we prepared breakfasts foods, several chicken dishes, and some vegetarian meals.

For the last class, we had a luncheon and I prepared green beans, macaroni and cheese and roasted several chickens with herbs. Everyone enjoyed the food and we had a good time visiting with each other and sharing what we had learned during the class.

Volunteering feels good, especially when you're doing something you love. It's easy for me to share my love of cooking and food and rewarding to see that others appreciate hearing about my passion.

Here's a link for more information about the Cooking Matters program:

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Smokin' On the Egg

Last weekend the weather was beautiful so I decided to cook on my Big Green Egg. I've had my Egg for about 9 years now and it's one of my favorite tools for cooking.

Several months ago, I had bought a pork butt and put it in the freezer; I defrosted it on Saturday so it would be ready for smoking on Sunday. I brought out the Egg, started the charcoal, and when the fire was really hot, I put the pork butt on, closed the lid, and reduced the heat to begin the smoking process. I let the pork smoke for about 9 hours.

Around midday, I let the fire come up to a higher heat and grilled some shrimp that I had marinated in ginger, garlic, lemon zest, cayenne and a little olive oil. That was our dinner.

Early evening, the pork was done. It was so delicious! The flavor of smoking all day was just incredible. Did I say I love my Big Green Egg?

We'll have sandwiches all week.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Chicken Pot Pie

I cooked for a client this past Monday and one of their entrees was chicken pot pie. I knew my husband loves chicken pot pie, so I decided to make it for us last night for dinner. I've been using a recipe I found on Food Network from Emeril Legasse and it's really good!

You need chicken, preferably your own fresh cooked chicken. I did this, and it really is the best way to go. Just cover a whole chicken in water and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours. You'll get so much chicken off one bird, you'll have enough to make several different dishes.

You'll also need onion, carrots, celery, potato, frozen green peas, chicken broth, flour and half 'n half, and cooked chicken. And pie crust, for the bottom and top.

Prepare all your vegetables by washing and chopping. Boil the chopped potato separately. Saute the carrot, onion and celery. Add flour to begin the sauce. Add the chicken stock, then half 'n half.

Add all this to your potatoes, chicken and peas. Pour into the pie crust, and top with the top crust. Bake at 400 degrees for about 30-40 minutes, till crust is golden and enjoy!

I think I'll have leftovers for lunch today.....

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Book Club Dinner

Last week, it was my turn to host our monthly neighborhood book club meeting and I volunteered to cook dinner. We had about twelve people for this month's book, "The Art Of Racing In The Rain".

I made pork tenderloin with a mustard cream sauce, chicken breast stuffed with spinach, sundried tomato and goat cheese with a tsaziki sauce, green beans sauteed with shallot and mushrooms, and a potato fennel gratin.

I've made the potato fennel gratin so many times for family gatherings and dinner parties and it is always a hit so I thought I'd share the recipe. It's from Ina Garten.

Potato Fennel Gratin

2 small fennel bulbs
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter, unslated
2 pounds russet potatoes (about 4 large potatoes)
2 cups heavy cream
2 1/2 cups grated Gruyere cheese
3 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the inside of a 10X15X2 inch baking dish.

Remove stalks from fennel and cut bulbs in half lenghtwise. Remove the cores and thinly slice the bulbs crosswise, making approx. 4 cups of sliced fennel. Saute the fennel and onion in the olive oil and butter on medium heat for about 15 minutes, until tender.

Peel potatos and thinly slice (I use a mandoline---works great!) Mix the potatoes in a large bowl with 2 cups of cream, 2 cups Gruyere, and salt and pepper. Add the fennel and onion and mix well.

Pour into baking dish, pressing down to make smooth. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Bake for 1 hour covered with foil, then 1/2 hour uncovered till top is golden brown and potatoes are cooked through.