Custom classes keeping me on my toes!

These last couple of months have been filled with custom cooking classes, as more and more people that have come to a themed class bring their friends for a unique experience together!  Each one is surprising and interesting in one way or another, from a group of lawyers to a bachelorette party to a surprise birthday party, they are sure to keep me on my toes!

A recent class I was privileged to a run was to be the surprise birthday party of a Thunder bay police officer.  Since he and his friends were really into hunting, his girlfriend asked me to put together a wild game menu, and they would supply some of the meat!  Not being into hunting myself, and having little experience with some of the wild meats available in this part of the world, I was a little intimidated, but ready for a challenge.  After going back and forth for a bit, the menu was decided on:


  • Moose mince ravioli
  • Mixed greens with feta, apple and wild boar bacon
  • Blackened pickerel with pineapple salsa, stuffed potatoes and honeyed carrots
  • Chocolate lava cakes with Baileys cream

I love cooking fish, and since spending a lot of time in the Bahamas, my favourite way to cook fish is the “blackened” style (not to be confused with burnt!) with some sort of fruity salsa.  So the main course was an easy choice.

Now, wild boar is just awesome.  I love that the bacon is super lean- even after you give it a good fry, it retains probably over 80% of its mass, unlike regular bacon that reduces to next to nothing in meat value and a whole lot of grease.  I picked up the boar bacon at the market from Northern Unique, and was surprised to be offered some great photos of their hogs to pass around at the class!   It was a nice touch.  Thank you Rob Walsh.  Our wild boar bacon was used not only as a necessary element to the salad, but also to stuff the potatoes, along with some fine gouda cheese from Thunder Oaks.

My party guests supplied the moose meat, which I used in a homemade ravioli, served with a homemade red sauce made with crushed tomatoes, fresh garlic and lots of fresh basil!  The ravioli part was tricky, and I wanted to do it the authentic Italian way, so I borrowed one of those archaic Italian pasta machines from a friend.  There were just so many parts and the instructions were in Italian, so I called my Italian friend to help me out!  She came over right away and we did up a few batches.  It is so fulfilling to be able to prepare your own pasta from scratch, starting with a pile of flour on the counter, some salt and a few eggs in the well in the centre.  Regardless, I do understand why most people just opt to make their own sauce and buy the pasta!

So, my guests arrived early, except the birthday boy of course.  His girlfriend caught me up on the “story” she had weaved to get him to come over.  I was to be the proud owner of a pair of side by sides (skids) that he’s been wanting for a while.   She advertised these gems at a ridiculously low price, using a fake account and my name and address as the seller.  This would get him for sure!  When he inquired, she wrote back (as me) to tell him that I worked shift work and would be home at 6:00, so to come shortly after.  His friend planned to arrive with him, just to make sure he wasn’t too late!   When he finally arrived, all of his friends were hiding in the living room and the class was set up and ready to go.  His first comment was, “Nice, I came here just in time for dinner!”  and then when he saw his friends, “Wait….”  It turned out to be a success, and he quickly got over the fact that I didn’t have the skids after all.  All I had to say was, “So, I have this nagging question.   What ARE side by side skids?”

When the HYS after school group contacted me to be a guest cook for their “celebrity chef” program, I immediately began to think up a fun idea that would entice grade 6-8 to both cook and eat!  Growing up with Dr. Seuss, and now with two kids of my own, I have practically memorized the favourite, “Green Eggs and Ham”.  I love that the main character in this book, not unlike my son Cameron, was unwilling to give this strange dish a try, until Sam annoyed him so much he would do anything to get him to go away!  And then he loved his green eggs and ham, and he would eat them in a box, and with a fox and in a house and with a mouse; here or there, or anywhere!

So, I concocted a blended egg dish that combined the power of a super food (spinach) and high protein (eggs, ham and cheese) to make a truly healthy dish for the kids to enjoy.  I was a little nervous walking into this class, as I imagined so many plates of this strange looking egg experiment going cold as the students eyed them suspiciously.  Turned out, curiosity trumps the fear a new things for a junior high student, and we all had a great time and enjoyed our eggs.

I have a feeling there may be a few budding chefs in this after school group, as I noticed a keenness in trying every part of the omelette cooking process.  I had kids practicing (very carefully of course!) proper knife handling, cracking eggs perfectly, having fun with the blender and cooking up their own fabulous omelettes to their own particular specification of ham, green onion and cheese.  It was a truly enriching experience.

If  you’d like to see the HYS after school program blog with pictures and a little video clip of my green eggs and ham demonstration, follow this link! Here are a few pics below from the day and below this is the video of making green eggs and ham! Yum!!

Kids3 Kids1

Christmas Turkey Cooking!

Right before Christmas I had the privilege of being interviewed on TB Newswatch, Thunder Bay’s local news channel, on how to create the perfect turkey! It was a lot of fun doing this video – albeit I was a tad nervous having a camera on me the whole time. If you haven’t had a chance to view this video, now you can! Tell me what you think – any tips that I missed here? Suggestions for cooking the turkey different? I’m curious to hear what others have to say about the wondrous art of cooking a turkey!

The Crème of the Crop…

October has been packed with cooking classes celebrating our fall harvest.  As I watch the warm weather quickly slip away into the past tense and hear talk of holiday preparations, I feel especially nostalgic about these garden crops that made up this month’s menu.

Due to an overwhelming response to this Harvest class, I ended up doing three in the course of a week!  However, with different guests adding a new flavour to each class, it never did get old.

The menu started with a beautiful slivered root vegetable salad, tossed in a lemon and herb vinaigrette over feisty arugula, with local bacon crumbled on top.  Having just received my pork order, part of which was sent to European Meats to get smoked, I was only too happy to include bacon in two of the courses!  (Later I stuff it into twice baked potatoes)   Another fun aspect of this salad was the addition of yellow beets.  Delivered by Sleepy G Farms located out by Pass Lake, these little beauties are just as intense in colour as the red beets, but a mustard yellow.  Slivered very thinly and marinated in dressing, beets and even rutabaga can be eaten (and enjoyed!) raw.

The second course was one of my popular lunch menu items, a blended gingered squash soup.  I used a banana squash for this one, which caused some confusion as it was titled, “roasted banana squash soup” making it sound like I roast bananas in there as well.  Even with my constant need to experiment, I don’t think I would go that far:)  The banana squash is usually big and ugly looking, but is dense and sweet like a butternut squash and is perfect for soup.  Heck, if you’re out of pumpkin, I’m sure you could bake with these as well!

The main course used pickerel from the local Fish Shop, cooked en papillote, very fun.  Stuffed potatoes with gouda from Thunder Oaks and some sweet and crunchy garden carrots from Sleepy G Farms sautéed in honey butter.

Finally, dessert!  Pumpkin crème brûlée, starting with a real pie pumpkin, some cream and some eggs.  Oh, and lots of sugar!  I had invested in a kitchen torch, so I could whip it out for these sort of occasions.  For a while it sat unused in my cupboard until I finally found some butane fluid at the “smoke shop”… now I’m trying to think of more things that I can use it for!  If you don’t have a kitchen torch, you can find it at Home Outfitters for $30.00.  Or… you can simply broil instead.  But it’s not as cool.

Anyways, I will include this recipe, as it is ever so delicious.

Pumpkin Crème Brûlée

Serves 4


  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 pinches nutmeg
  • 1 pinch ginger
  • 1 pinch ground cloves
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 cup coarse sugar or raw sugar


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In a medium saucepan, heat the cream, milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves over medium heat, stirring occasionally, just until it comes to a boil. Immediately turn off the heat and set aside to infuse at least 15 minutes. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the granulated sugar. Whisking constantly, gradually pour in the hot cream mixture. Whisk in the pumpkin puree. Pour the mixture into 4 ovenproof ramekins and arrange in a hot water bath. Bake in the center of the oven until almost set but still a bit soft in the center, 30 to 40 minutes. The custard should “shimmy” a bit when you shake the pan; it will firm up more as it cools. Remove from the water bath and let cool 15 minutes. Tightly cover each ramekin with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic does not touch the surface of the custard. Refrigerate at least 2 hours, and up to 24 hours.

When ready to serve, uncover the chilled custards. Pour as much coarse sugar as will fit onto the top of 1 of the custards. Pour off the remaining sugar onto the next custard. Repeat until all the custards are coated. Discard any remaining sugar. Fire up your kitchen torch and flame evenly until sugar is melted and caramel in colour.  Let cool 1 minute before serving.

The pics I’m going to include are a selection taken from all three of the October Harvest classes.  Enjoy!  And keep your eyes peeled for my next class, a creative take on a festive meal!

soup salad2 salad fallcourse

A September Harvest Cooking Class

The second cooking class of the Seasonal Series was aptly named “A September Harvest”. I was especially excited about this menu, as I am very fond of both squash and apples! Here’s what we enjoyed:


  • Roasted corn chowder with cilantro and lime
  • Microgreens with fresh Gouda, candied almonds and blueberry vinaigrette
  • Marinated London broil accompanied by baked risotto and roasted fall squashes
  • Stuffed baked apples with maple creme

The squash was delivered by Shannon Vanlenthe, aka the Squash Queen, who I knew would come up with a huge variety of squash for me to roast and simmer. Since I wasn’t able to use up all the squash she brought over, the remainder make up my new fall centrepiece! The flank steaks came from Bruce and Valve Forrest Farms, and were huge! Each steak came to over 2.5 lbs, making it a very tender London Broil. Thunder Oaks supplied some fabulous cheese for the salad. I found some sweet peaches and cream corn from Belluz’s red barn, which were so fresh that they only needed a few minutes on the BBQ to get that roasted flavour and they were soup-ready! A lovely couple from the Market (I wish I remembered which ones!) supplied the most crisp, tart apples for the baked apple dessert. And Queen Street Market introduced me to their microgreens, which not only became the base of our salad, but made a beautiful garnish on the flank steak. Of course, my garden helped fill in the blanks with garlic, onions and herbs. In all, I was so pleased with the collection of fresh local ingredients I had to work with.

While all of the courses were delicious, I have to say I was happiest with the baked apples. Thanks to Food and Drink magazine for their fall inspiration and liquor infused recipes, I found a fantastic stuffed apple recipe with mascarpone cheese (worth the extra money!) and rum soaked raisins. Actually, the recipe called for Cointreau, a variety of the Triple Sec liqueur, but I had Rum on hand, and Rum and raisins form a pretty great combination. Of course, there are limits to the alcohol flexibility. Don’t use Kahlua or Irish Cream. That would be weird. As for apples, make sure you use a crisp and tart kind, no soft flesh allowed. And find the biggest ones possible. So, here’s a lovely use of your fall apples…

Stuffed baked apples

Makes 9


  • 1 ½ cups saltanas
  • 4 tbsp Rum or Cointreau
  • ¾ cup apple cider
  • ½ tsp cardamom
  • 1 or 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 9 large baking apples
  • ¾ cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup

Crumble topping:

  • ¾ cup large flake oats
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • ¼ cup roughly chopped pecans
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 3 tbsp butter, melted


To prepare earlier in the day: Combine raisins with rum, apple cider, cardamom and cinnamon stick. Cover and let stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours. Remove cinnamon stick.

Prepare apples by scooping out the insides from the top using a melon baller, leaving the bottoms intact. Peel in strips around the apple vertically. Arrange apples in a glass baking dish. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Strain raisins, reserving liquid and stir in mascarpone cheese and maple syrup. Divide among apples. Drizzle remaining liquid over apples and cover baking dish with buttered foil. Bake for 25 min, basting occasionally. Remove and uncover.

In a small bowl, use a fork to crumble oats, sugar, flour, pecans and cinnamon together. Drizzle with melted butter and toss to combine. Divide among the apples and bake 15 more minutes, until crisp and golden.

Serve with whipped cream or on its own.


Anywho, here are some finger licking pics of the last class, just to make you jealous!

dessert Cooking class Brent and Nadia Salad3 Soup2

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