Friday night, 11/13 was our Teen/Preteen ‘Winter Comfort Food’ Class.
Twelve young people between the ages of 10 & 16 gathered together to learn how to prepare and cook a menu for cold Winter nights.
Creative Vegetable Soup
Jeweled Meat Loaf
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Cheesy Broccoli Casserole
The students were divided up into groups depending on their skill level. Four students who had never made yeast dough before were put in charge of the Foccacia with of course, a supervising adult to guide them through the process. They made the Dough and then set it aside to rise. The actual Foccacia was made from a risen dough that had been made before the class started. Once the Dough was fitted into the Baking Pans and topped with Olive Oil, Herbs and Tomatoes, and Cheese the Bread went into the oven for baking.
The Dough that the students made was divided up and given to the students that made it to take home and finish. They were told that they could make either Pizza, Foccacia or Breadsticks with it.
Two of the girls made the Apple Crisp. This involved peeling, coring and slicing about 10 Apples and combining them with spices and other ingredients. A streusel topping was made to go on top of the Apples. This dish was baked while the rest of the food was being made.
Two other students started the Soup. This is a wonderful Vegetable Soup that can be made with most any kind of Vegetables and Beef, Chicken or Vegetable Broth. Even though we generally advise the students to mise en place their recipes before they start cooking, the rule was changed for this recipe so that the soup would be done in time for the students to eat it. The Onions and Mushrooms were prepared first so that they could start sautéing them. While the Onions and Mushrooms cooked, the other Vegetables were prepared. After the Onions and Mushrooms were sufficiently cooked to start caramelizing them, the Stock was added and the whole mixture was allowed to simmer for about 45 minutes. Then the seasonings were added along with the remaining Vegetables. Once the Vegetables were almost cooked sufficiently, the tiny pasta was added.
While all this was being done, the Meatloaf was prepared by two different groups of students. One group put all the Vegetables into their Meatloaf and one group who preferred not to have Bell Peppers, put all the Vegetables, except for the Bell Peppers into their loaf.
While the Meatloaf was baking in the oven, the Cheesy Broccoli Casserole was prepared and baked. This dish does not take too long to bake. Once the students were done cooking, the tables were cleared and set with placemats and dinnerware and the soup and Foccacia were served. After the first course, the Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes and Broccoli was also served and of course, dessert finally came at the end.
The beverages for this meal were fruit juices and water. All in all, everyone had a good time and learned how to make several different dishes. Everyone took home recipes so that they could practice at home on family members. Keep an eye out for our next Teen/Preteen Class at Let’s Get Cookin’. February will be a Dim Sum Menu to celebrate the Chinese New Year ‘The Year of the Dragon’.
Shellfish is one of my favorite foods and when it is available at reasonable prices I can’t pass it up. Our local warehouse store has bags of Calamari, Shrimp, Scallops and Mussels (Seafood Blend) at a reasonable price. It was a 3.5 lb. bag and I was able to get by with using only half and saving half in the freezer for another time. Of course, only three of us ate, so if the mouths you have to feed are more numerous, the whole bag would have to be used. The amount I purchased would make an ample dinner for six people.
One of my favorite things to do is to make what I call ‘clean out the refrigerator’ soup. So to make the Cioppino, I used what I had on hand which is the following: 1 Onion, 3 ribs of Celery, 3 Tomatoes, 2 Potatoes, 3 Carrots, Mushrooms, frozen Baby Peas, leftover Marinara Sauce, Tomato Paste, Balsamic Vinegar, Marsala Wine, Salt and Pepper plus fresh Basil and Oregano and some ground Thyme.. I had some lobster shells and shrimp shells in the freezer with which I made a seafood stock. And of course, there was the bag of shellfish that I had purchased.
I used a 12 cup pot in which I melted some Butter (about 4 Tbsps.); Olive Oil would be a healthier way to go and would have preferred that to the butter, but thought about it too late. In the melted Butter, I sauteed a diced Onion, sliced Celery and Carrots and the Mushrooms. When they were softened and just beginning to caramelize I add the Seafood Stock which I strained before adding. I also added the Marinara Sauce and let the whole thing simmer for about half hour. While the soup mixture was simmering I added a whole Jalapeno just to give it some umph. This was a fresh Jalapeno from a plant I have growing outside and the fruit of this particular plant is extremely hot, so I left it whole to prevent too much heat from penetrating the soup.
I then sauteed the seafood blend in some hot Olive Oil and let it cook for about three minutes or until the Mussels were fully opened and the Calamari was fully cooked. Be careful not to overocok seafood as overcooking it will toughen it.
I tasted the Vegetable Stock mixture and then added enough Salt and Pepper to season it along with the fresh Basil & Oregano. I also added about 1/4 teaspoon of ground Thyme. If you have fresh Thyme, that would be even better. It still needed some zing so I added a dash of Balsamic Vinegar and a splash of Marsala Wine. Just before serving, I placed the cooked seafood in my soup serving pot and covered it with the vegetable mixture.
I served the Ciopinno with garlic bread. This provided a hearty meal which went very well with a green salad, which by the way is not necessary as the soup is plenty to satisfy one’s appetite.