Cooking Class Notes

Some people are known by their appetizers or side dishes during the holiday season. Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without getting buzzed from my Aunt Dina’s rum cakes (her secret: doubling the rum) or enjoying my father-in-law’s homemade caramels and peanut butter blossoms. I was absolutely crushed the year my Aunt Colleen decided to swap out her regular cheesy hashbrowns with scalloped potatoes.

But the holiday season is also a fun time to try out new appetizers, side dishes and desserts. I never would have made a gingerbread cake roll just for myself.

When I heard about an appetizer cooking class at the cafe I work for, I jumped at the chance to attend. (When you help, you get in for free!) It helped that the menu included bacon wrapped apples with apricot glaze, brie en croute, mushrooms baked with ham and artichoke stuffing, and salami coronets.

022 In the tea world, my mom made an awesome Smoky Tea Dip (using Lapsang Souchong), Plum Berry White tea, a matcha cheesecake, and mulled tea wine. Who says class can’t be fun?

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Chef Ken said it best when he said “The appetizers we’re demonstrating tonight are quick and easy, because no one has a lot of time during the holiday season, but we all like to eat.”

Yup.

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One of my absolute favorite appetizers is Brie en Croute. It’s one of the few things you’ll find that can both be easy and fancy.

Brie en Croute

  • 1 wheel of brie cheese
  • 1 sheet puff pastry
  • 1/4 cup jam or preserves
  • nuts
  • 1 egg, beaten

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Unfold puff pastry on a lightly floured surface. Place cheese on a clean surface. Top with jam and nuts. Flip cheese over onto center of puff pastry, and fold edges up to seal. Flip brie en croute over and brush with the beaten egg. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Let rest for 20 minutes before serving.

My mom claimed to be nervous talking in front of 50 people, but I couldn’t tell.

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(Sorry you’re blurry, Mom!) She did a wonderful job explaining the different types and benefits of tea as well as how they can be used for cooking. We sampled her delicious smokey tea spread which combines cream cheese, Lapsang Souchong, minced garlic, and chives for a wonderfully smoky and savory dip. A lot of people commented that it tasted like a smoked salmon dip.

Smokey Tea Dip

  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 2 tsp crushed Lapsang Souchong (I use my mortar and pestle)
  • 3/4 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp minced chives
  • pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients well. Serve with crackers, pretzels, or crudites.

A lady from Edible Arrangements attended as well to demonstrate one of the holiday’s most appreciated gifts: chocolate covered everything (mostly fruit).

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I snagged a chocolate covered treat of my own before I left. Have you ever tried a chocolate covered banana? Amazing! It was pillowy and soft, almost like a chocolate covered marshmallow.

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These last few weeks have been a bit crazy for me. I have been working quite a bit, but I don’t feel overworked at all. I’m enjoying keeping busy, and I love having a little bit of extra spending money for holiday presents. Dave and I agreed to only do stockings for each other this year to save on expenses, but we’re still enjoying the finer things of the season: seasonal coffee (Market Pantry’s Gingerbread Toffee, anyone?), gatherings with friends (one tomorrow!), and our wonderfully decorated apartment.

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