Sticky Toffee Pudding!!

You might think that you don’t have to be an adventurous young chef to eat Sticky Toffee Pudding with Freshly Whipped Cream, but perhaps you don’t know that the key ingredient to this traditional British dessert is DATES! I don’t know about you, but my own son isn’t a big fan.

For the first half of our after-school cooking class (for adventurous young chefs) today, we pitted and chopped dates, and then boiled them in baking soda and water.  Not a very auspicious beginning, to say the least, but once the “pudding” (which contained plenty of butter, sugar and eggs, too) was baked and the warm toffee sauce and freshly whipped vanilla cream slathered over the top, there wasn’t a single complaint from a student or a parent at pickup!  Forget the figgy pudding, bring us some STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING!

Sticky Toffee Pudding with caramel sauce and whipped cream

After the sticky toffee pudding, it was time for our Iron Chef contest… can you guess what the secret ingredient was?

"Ravioli" stuffed with spinach, ricotta & parmesan with a walnut butter sage sauce

No… it wasn’t pasta… and it wasn’t spinach… try again.

Asian dumplings with shrimp, potatoes, cilantro and a ginger-ponzu dipping sauce

You guessed it — it was WON TON WRAPPERS!  Here the Iron Chefs are at work…

Here they are with their finished pudding AND their Iron Chef dishes… how lucky were the people who picked them up at the end of the day? (both dishes were DIVINE!)

That was our last class of the Iron Chef series… I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaii and a Happy, Happy New Year! xo and Bon Appetit!



Buche De Noel Express

I’m not normally a sugar junkie, but it is the holiday season, and I couldn’t resist in today’s after-school cooking class!  First, we made a Buche de Noel, a “yule log” cake.  If you’ve never tasted this traditional French Christmas cake, you are missing out.  this particular cake was flourless, and the filling was a light chocolate mousse — delicious!  Buche de Noel may sound fancy,  but basically it’s a sponge cake (we prefer the word genoise, though, because who wants to eat a sponge?) baked in a jelly roll pan, then filled with a cloud-like filling, and rolled into the shape of a log.  After that, you frost it with buttercream, drag the tines of a fork across it to make it look like a log, then decorate it with meringue mushrooms and whatever else you can find that will make it look festive. Check out the finished product, made by my incredibly talented and adventurous young chefs, Chloe, Cleo, Masha, Cierra and Grace! (There is a close up of the cake and meringue “mushrooms” below)

Adventurous young chefs and their Buche de Noel

Here they are in action…

Chocolate!! Chloe, Cierra and Cleo spread the filling on the genoise.

Dusting cocoa on the meringue "mushrooms"

Cierra finishes "gluing" the stem onto the mushroom cap with frosting

Meringue "mushroom" for the Buche de Noel

And here is the finished product… mind you, these chefs are between the ages of 6 and 9, and this is all AFTER a full day of school!!  This is all from scratch and they made it in under two hours.  I think they are amazing!

Buche de Noel "Express"

Oh, that wasn’t all they did in class today… remember, this is the Iron Chef series, so we still needed a secret ingredient! Since we were in the holiday frame of mind, I decided the secret ingredient should be…

Gingerbread Houses!

Each team had a gingerbread house to put together and decorate…

racing to beat the clock...

In the end, the parents came and took part in the “blind vote.” Presentation and originality were the categories this time, because the houses were too pretty to eat (plus we had the Buche de Noel)… In the end, Team A won for Originality, and Team B won for Presentation, which means a tie for today’s Iron Chef contest!

Now I have to start thinking about next week… any ideas what the secret ingredient should be?

Happy Holidays and Bon Appetit!


Happy Holiday Cooking!



LFIK Campers with Candyland Cupcakes

Happy Holidays to my Wonderful Students!

I don’t know about you, but I love cooking during the holidays more than any other time of the year.  When I was growing up, my Grammy Olga used to start baking hundreds of wonderful Christmas cookies and homemade candy right about now… including chocolate-dipped peanut butter balls, pink coconut bon-bons, magic cookie bars, divinity, Linzer cookies, Spritz cookies, snickerdoodles, chocolate fudge, peanut butter fudge and of course, those gorgeous iced cutout cookies!  It just went on and on, and my brothers and I had so much fun opening each Tupperware container to more treats.

But it wasn’t just about the sweets.  I loved helping my mom make the Christmas roast or Turkey or whatever we were having that year.  In fact, as long as I could stay in that warm, bustling kitchen, I was happy.

When I became a teenager, I began the tradition of making a big lasagna feast for my family on Christmas Eve — one lasagna with veal or sausage, and another with just roasted veggies and cheese — which my grandparents avoided like the plague! “I’m a meat and potatoes guy,” my darling Grampy would say, politely declining.  But I never gave up.   Years went by with me begging him just to taste “one tiny bite,” until finally, one year, he did.  I will never forget the look on his face as he first took one bite, then dug in, a big smile on his face.  After that, Grampy ONLY ate my vegetable lasagna on Christmas Eve.  When I would call his home in Iowa from California, he would end each conversation with, “come out and make some of that vegetable lasagna, Jenny!”   See, it’s not just children who are sometimes afraid to try new dishes… as adults, we often get set in our ways and can miss out on some really delicious foods.  As a young woman, I was so proud that I could turn my 85 year-old grandfather onto a delicious new recipe. He passed away years ago, but I always feel him close to me when I make that lasagna.

In case you want to try it out on your grandparents, I’m posting the roasted veggie lasagna recipe in my RECIPES FOR ADVENTUROUS YOUNG CHEFS section… my question is, will YOU be brave enough to try it?

Don’t forget to check out the latest cooking classes for kids! We have a really fun after-school class on Tuesdays (two classes left in the Iron Chef series) from 2-5 p.m., and a GREAT WINTER COOKING CAMP coming up January 3-7… just click on COOKING CLASSES (on the left) for more info!

Until I see you, happy holiday cooking and Bon Appetit!!