Montage Field Trip With The Best Cake Artist in America

We just wrapped up another week at Little Feet in the Kitchen summer cooking camp with a field trip to the Montage Beverly Hills, hosted by the incredibly charming and talented Chef Richard Ruskell, winner of Food Network’s “Last Cake Standing” — also known as The Best Cake Artist in America.

Putting on chef hats in anticipation of meeting Chef Ruskell

Our wonderful mommy drivers - thank you!

Chef Ruskell first gave us a tour of the luxe Montage Hotel, including the rooftop garden…

checking out the view

…the lobby, tearoom, the ballroom and the outstanding open kitchen, which boasts a special chef’s table for the very lucky.

Though the enormous open kitchen boasting shiny copper pots, luscious marble countertops and state-of-the-art equipment was awe-inspiring, our favorite room was the special Pastry Room, the door of which is closed tightly to the public for various reasons. Entering this room was like entering a sanctuary… a sugar sanctuary, that is, as this is where cupcakes, chocolate chip cookies, French macarons, chocolate dipped strawberries and every possible treat are born.

The Artist's "Paints"

Our stomachs growled as Chef Ruskell explained various buttercream techniques and the delicious cakes, cookies, desserts and pastries made at the hotel.

Luckily, Chef Ruskell was not only generous with his time and baking secrets, but also with his desserts!  He and one of his sous chefs surprised us with a cupcake decorating lesson, as well as some of his famous chocolate chip cookies… the best!

If campers hadn’t impressed the chef with their knowledge of kitchen terms such as mise en place, they definitely surprised him with their piping skills.

We love Chef Ruskell’s trick of reusing cupcake crumbs as sprinkles (below)… we’ll sign up for that recycling program anytime!

But enough about cupcakes… we wanted to see just one more cake created by the master, and we were not disappointed!  Just look at the sculpted chocolate details on this very special cake, which was made for a top secret celebrity…

dogs sculpted out of what else... CHOCOLATE!

After those delicious cupcakes, chocolate chip cookies & all of those wonderful tips from a celebrity pastry chef, the last thing we wanted to do was leave, however, Chef Ruskell had to get back to his sweet confections, so we said goodbye, and headed back to Studio City, visions of sugar still dancing in our heads.

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Lighter Than Air

Welcome to the blog for adventurous young chefs where there are no chicken nuggets allowed!

This week, campers are focusing on lighter fare.  First up was eggs, and after cracking & separating to our hearts content, we cooked up some fluffy scrambled eggs with black truffle butter and two kinds of souffles: dark chocolate and lemon-lime with raspberry sauce.  Did you know that souffle means “to blow up” in French?  Ours definitely lived up to their names!

Second day was all about salads, and among others, we created mini-caesar salads in parmesan cups… the perfect appetizer for a dinner party!

We created our own signature salad dressings and made a Farro Salad with Mint, Peas, Arrugula and Burrata Cheese.  Our non-salad eaters promptly became salad eaters after a day in the kitchen.

Third day… let’s see… kids in the kitchen, so you automatically think… PARISIAN MACARONS!  We had so much fun creating chocolate, orange blossom, strawberry & vanilla macarons with various fillings.  Here are the chocolate ones, just out of the oven.

Children made these - take that, LaDuree!

The (macaron) filling station

Some of us opted to put some finishing touches of gold dust on their macarons… This chocolate-gold specimen tasted as good as it looks!

 

Okay, maybe these leftovers got a little crushed, but in this box, don’t they make you feel like you’re in Paris?

We have two more days in this week’s summer cooking camp, and we can’t wait to try the honeydew melon, cucumber, mint & jalapeno puree tomorrow… Check back in a few days to find out what the secret ingredient of tomorrow’s Iron Chef Contest is — you won’t believe it!

 

Celebrity Chef Week

Welcome to the blog for Adventurous Young Chefs, where some very cool kids would rather make (and eat) something more exciting than dinosaur chicken nuggets!  This week at Little Feet in the Kitchen, it’s Celebrity Chef week, and we are making the recipes of a different chef every day. Check out our first few days:

It’s always so quiet just before camp begins…

 

And then the fun begins.

Monday was Julia Child day, so we got started right away learning how to crack & separate eggs…

We also learned how to properly whisk, and whipped up some delicious omelets for lunch.

Later we made Pissaladiere Nicoise, sort of a pizza on puff pastry with caramelized onions and olives, which originated in Nice.

The eggs we had separated went into some rich, dark chocolate mousse.  Julia would have been proud.

 

Look at what parents got to taste at pickup… not too shabby!

pissaladiere nicoise & mousse au chocolat!

Tuesday was Jamie Oliver day.  How much do we love Jamie? We talked about how wonderful it would have been for our favorite Brit to just pop by to say hello, but instead, we settled for a YouTube video of Jamie discovering that some children didn’t know the difference between a tomato and a potato.  We love Jamie and his Food Revolution and wish that LAUSD would let him get his hands on our school lunches!  Keep trying, Jamie – we need you!

To get the day started, we made our own herb salts, to be used on roasts, salads, or wherever we want to use them.  Campers got to choose between lavender, lemon-thyme, sage, tarragon and rosemary… though some, like Grace (below), decided that a melange of all the herbs made the perfect herb salt!

Later, in honor of Jamie, we made a gorgeous salad with fresh figs macerated in honey and balsamic vinegar, individual shepherd’s pies and raspberry Eton Mess, that sweet, fluffy dessert of freshly whipped cream, raspberries and crumbled meringue cookies.   Here are some of my campers crumbling up the meringue cookies… how fun is this recipe?

If you’ve never had Eton Mess, you have something to look forward to.  It is incredibly simple, and just as incredibly delicious!

We are looking forward to tomorrow, which is Mario Batali day — a day of some delicious Italian food – we can’t wait.  We are also excited about our special guest chef, Gwen Kenneally, chef and owner of Back to the Kitchen, who is stopping by.  We can’t wait to see what she is going to teach us.

In the meantime, it’s quiet again at Little Feet in the Kitchen cooking camp, but only long enough for us to recharge.

Stay tuned… will your favorite celebrity chef be next?

Summer Is Here

Summer is here and we just finished our first week of cooking camp at Little Feet in the Kitchen, the camp for adventurous young chefs!

Though it’s hard to pass off something like tart flambe as adventurous when it’s really just puff pastry with a creamy, luscious filling, topped with  caramelized onions and bacon…

Oh, how I loved this group of campers. It’s always so amazing to see children of all ages working so well together (last week it was 10 kids, ages 8-13) — they really came together like a family.

making Martha Stewart crudite centerpieces

We started our week out making appetizers… tarte flambes, white bean, sage and truffle crostini, bruschetta — and individual “crudite centerpieces”  — veggies suddenly became popular when presented in pretty flower pots & served with a delicious cucumber dill dip.

We moved on to salads and made Salade Nicoise, Caesar Salad (we learned how to pasteurize egg yolks in the microwave) and our own signature salad dressings.

The theme of this camp was “That’s Classic,” so we wanted to make some other classics, like chicken pot pie (yum) and roast chicken.  We found that the perfect roast chicken is one that’s stuffed with garlic, lemon, onions, rosemary and fresh lemon-thyme from the garden… we roasted it at a high temp for 5 minutes, then turned the oven down to 400 degrees for another hour and a half.  In the interest of having a perfectly moist bird, we don’t go in for those silly “the chicken is done when the juices run clear” directions.  We use a meat thermometer to make sure we didn’t overcook it.  The result was golden, crispy skin on the outside, and insanely moist meat inside. And our onions, garlic and carrots were so caramelized by the time our chicken was finished, we couldn’t stop eating them.  Please excuse our breath after all that garlic!

Our herb roasted chicken with garlic, onions and carrots was divine

What to serve with roast chicken?  Pommes anna, of course, along with an apple tart.  We were treated to a demo by my friend Claude Tait, one of the best (French) home cooks I know.  Her tarte aux pommes is one of the prettiest I have ever seen.

making tarte aux pommes with Claude

A field trip to Porto’s Cuban Bakery with the incredibly generous Executive Chef Tony Salazar leading the way was the highlight of our week, however.  We watched as talented cake decorators created magic in Swiss meringue, chocolate and glazed fruit…

Porto's Bakery Field trip with Exec Chef Tony

Swiss Meringue - an artist in the kitchen

Field trips are no fun without something sweet, though, so campers were given pastry bags full of chocolate and vanilla frosting, along with some fluffy cupcakes, and put straight to work.

During our “That’s Classic” week, we fit in an Iron Chef contest (secret ingredient: ricotta cheese), some homemade chocolate bars…

… and a very noisy (and fun) “whipped cream race.”

whipped cream race

Along the way, we agreed that the “real” Caesar salad with anchovies is much better than that nasty bottled stuff, that we like truffle butter on our potatoes, and that great friends can be made  in the kitchen. As the lovely Julia Child used to say, until next time, Bon Appetit!

Little Feet Goes Barefoot… In Mexico



THIS SUMMER, COMBINE YOUR CHILD’S COOKING CAMP WITH A FAMILY VACATION.

For one week, Little Feet in the Kitchen will be setting up shop at Playa Viva, the exclusive oceanfront eco-luxe boutique hotel outside of beautiful Zihuatenejo, Mexico.

 

Bask in the sun with your toes in the sand while your little ones take to the Playa Viva kitchen for four days of hands-on cooking lessons focusing on the regional cuisine of Mexico.  Cooking students ages 6-13 will make lunch for their parents each day, and when the class is over, families can spend time together on the beach, the turtle sanctuary, or exploring the sights in Zihuatenejo.

LITTLE FEET ON THE BEACH

Sample Cooking Itinerary; July 9-16, 2011; 9-1, Mon-Thurs

MARISCOS – Students will learn all about seafood, Mexican style.  First, we’ll go fishing, and then we’ll head back to the kitchen to make dishes such as shrimp ceviche, frutti de mare, and more.

QUESO – Mexican cheese. First, a field trip to the local queso fresco factory, followed by a cheese tasting in the Playa Viva kitchen, where we’ll make handmade corn tortillas, chilaquiles and quesadilla de rajas.

SAL – We’ll watch the locals rake artisanal salt washed down from the Sierra Madres, and learn all about this magic ingredient.  Menu includes salt-crusted fish and Pizza Bianca.

XOCOATL – We’ll take a trip to the local cacao farm, then head back to the kitchen for a chocolate tasting and history of chocolate, first used by the Mayans and Aztecs.  We’ll make Mexican chocolate ice cream, and watch the Playa Viva chefs create a traditional mole sauce.

Cost includes airport ground transportation, all meals and beverages (excluding alcohol), daily yoga classes, wi-fi, and cooking class, apron and chef hat for one child, beginning at $2490 for a deluxe suite).

This special opportunity is only open to a limited number of families. Reservations must be confirmed by May 31.  To book or for more info, call (818) 691-3177, or go to: http://www.playaviva.com

 

Going Retro

Welcome to the blog for adventurous young chefs!  I have had many requests from my students to make some “retro recipes” from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s — everything from “pigs in blankets” to Steak Diane.  In today’s after-school cooking class, we whipped up our first three dishes: deviled eggs, pigs in blankets and cherries jubilee, the dish that was reportedly made for Queen Victoria by the famed Chef Escoffier near the turn of the century.  We put on some tunes from the past, including Sarah Vaughn and Count Basie, and got cooking…

White Asparagus with Beurre Blanc

I almost forgot our favorite recipe from last week… What could be more retro than white asparagus with beurre blanc?  Or anything with beurre blanc, for that matter?  My LFIK students not only loved this dish, they BEGGED for more.  Luckly, I sent them home with the recipe.  You can find it on the RECIPES page of this site.  But I digress… it was time to make Pigs In Blankets, American Style.

We made these little piggies with both turkey dogs and all beef hot dogs, but of course, you could make them vegetarian if you wanted to… the truth is, they seem to be everyone’s guilty pleasure, and we served them with honey mustard and of course, ketchup.  If we had been in London, we would have served them with HP Sauce!

Meanwhile, our eggs were boiled and ready to be deviled…

making deviled eggs

Deviled Eggs

Need I tell you how delicious they were?  We topped half of them with fresh dill – the others, with smoky paprika.

Last, but definitely not least was our Cherries Jubilee (thank you, Escoffier) — only this recipe was straight out of the 50’s, with Bing cherries straight from the CAN.  We flambeed our cherries with Kirsch…

… then spooned it over vanilla ice cream and topped it with whipped cream.  In the end, we agreed that we would much prefer to create our own version with fresh cherries, sugar and butter… Escoffier’s authentic version, to be sure.  In any case, the jubilee was a hit with both the cooking students and the parents at pickup.

We are looking forward to next week’s dishes… we’re thinking chicken pot pie, bananas flambee…. or perhaps deviled crab and baked Alaska… what are your favorite retro recipes?

Feeling Guilty About Endive… (Winter White Series, Class 3)

Welcome to the blog for adventurous young chefs!  I love how adventurous my students are, both in cooking and tasting what they have made.  I say “tasting,” but maybe I should be honest and say “gobbling!”  Here are my adventurous young chefs in today’s after-school cooking class…

 

We continued our Winter White theme with an Endive, Fennel and Gran Padano Salad with Blood Orange Olive Oil & Lemon, followed by a Cauliflower Gratin with Truffle Butter.  Both dishes were so popular, it was a struggle to save some for the parents at pickup!

But about the endive.  I had no idea that Belgian Endive began as chicory, and then was ripped out by the roots and “forcibly grown” in the darkness!  How ghastly that I have been enjoying this pale, delicate lettuce for so long without knowing of the abuse involved? 🙂  Here is Grace chopping the (poor, poor) endive now…

You might be thinking, “there is no way children ate that salad,” and you would, of course, be wrong!  Every single one of them cleaned their plate, and a few asked for seconds.  Perhaps it was the promise of a thinly shaved piece of that Gran Padano cheese in every bite… or it may have been that incredible Blood Orange Olive oil we got from We Olive in Long Beach… or the fact that the fennel and endive are so crunchy — who knows?  Check out the before & after shots of the salad here!

Before…

And After…

Last week we baked White Chocolate Meringue Cookies and stirred up some incredible White Risotto.  I am including a few recipes below, but for more from this series and our Julia Children series, please go to our “Recipes For Adventurous Young Chefs” tab on the left… Bon Appetit!

 

Adventurous Chefs with White Chocolate Meringue Cookies

Stirring and stirring the risotto

White Risotto

 

ENDIVE AND FENNEL SALAD WITH GRAN PADANO CHEESE, BLOOD ORANGE OLIVE OIL AND LEMON

2 endives, sliced thinly

½ cup fennel root, shaved or thinly sliced (remove the core and stalks)

½ cup thinly shaved Gran Padano (Parmesan) Cheese

 

Blood Orange Olive Oil (Available via telephone @ We Olive in Long Beach) and at Surfas in Culver City

2-3 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon

sea salt

freshly ground pepper

 

Layer thinly sliced endive on a plate.  Top with shaved fennel and shaved parmesan cheese.  Drizzle blood orange olive oil and lemon juice all over the salad.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

 

And here is the recipe for our Cauliflower Gratin, inspired by Ina Garten!  Enjoy!

CAULIFLOWER GRATIN WITH TRUFFLE BUTTER

1 (3-pound) head cauliflower, cut into large florets

Kosher salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups hot milk

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

3/4 cup freshly grated Gruyere, divided

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs

2 tbsp. truffle butter (available at Gelson’s or Surfas)

 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Cook the cauliflower florets in a large pot of boiling salted water for 5 to 6 minutes, until tender but still firm. Drain.

Make Bechamel Sauce: melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture and stir until it comes to a boil. Boil, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, or until thickened.

 

Off the heat, add 1 teaspoon of salt, the pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup of the Gruyere, and the Parmesan.  Pour 1/3 of the sauce on the bottom of an 8 by 11 by 2-inch baking dish. Place the drained cauliflower on top and then spread the rest of the sauce evenly on top. Combine the bread crumbs with the remaining 1/4 cup of Gruyere and sprinkle on top. Melt the 2 tablespoons of truffle butter and drizzle over the gratin. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is browned. Serve hot or at room temperature.

 

Winter White

Welcome to Little Feet in the Kitchen, the blog for Adventurous Young Chefs!

White Hot Chocolate & Homemade Marshmallows – delicious!!

We live in Los Angeles, so we don’t get the snow the East Coast is enjoying.  Instead, we’ve decided to create our own “winterscape” with some brand new recipes in the Winter White series.

Today was the first class of the six-week series, and we loved everything we made! First, can we talk about homemade marshmallows?!  Why would anyone eat store-bought marshmallows when you can have marshmallows that taste like these?? Fluffy, light, sweet… sublime.  They were perfect. And by perfect, I mean perfectly imperfect, just like you and I.  Stunning.

marshmallows in the making

It’s miraculous how something that starts out smelling like dirty socks (seriously, that’s what it smelled like before we added the vanilla) can whip up into something so gorgeous, so fluffy and so divine…

We cut our marshmallows into squares and rolled them in powdered sugar… they reminded me of tiny pillows.

While waiting for our marshmallows to firm up, we made Pizza Bianca – crisp pizza bread topped with olive oil, rosemary, garlic and a sprinkle of sea salt.  So crunchy, so delicious, that only two of my five students could bear to save even a bite for their parents.  Trust me, they are not to blame – that pizza was delicious!!

After the pizza, we made white hot chocolate to go with our white marshmallows… cream, milk, white chocolate chips and vanilla.  So simple, and yet so heavenly, especially topped with one of our gorgeous marshmallows.

Pizza Bianca

After the pizza, we made white hot chocolate to go with our white marshmallows… cream, milk, white chocolate chips and vanilla.  So simple, and yet so heavenly, especially topped with one of our gorgeous marshmallows.

As I wished each of my beautiful young students a happy new year, we talked about resolutions and new beginnings.  I love making resolutions, but told them that we never have to wait for a whole new year to start over, or “reset the clock.”  Every single day, every single moment – when we decide we want to… we get to start all over again.

We made homemade marshmallows, after all.  Anything is possible. Happy New Year!

Jennifer



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!