A Cooking Class I Taught (at My House)

Talking food and cooking, preparing and eating delicious dishes, gal pal time, lots of laughing. And someone to serve wine and clean up (Craig). Doesn’t get much better than that, does it?

I am referring to a cooking class I taught last week. At my house. My yoga teacher asked if I would help her and a few friends hone their culinary skills. What an a-ma-zing group of women and did they cook up a storm. What a scrumptious dinner they made. We talked techniques and kitchen tools, we talked what foods are worth splurging for organic (the USDA's "Dirty Dozen"), we marveled over how easy and tasty pizza dough is to prepare, even without exactly following the directions, and how quinoa is such a versatile seed – and it is not a grain. A wonderful evening indeed, and we’ve already planned the agenda for next time, appetizers.

Truth be told, I was nervous about doing this. I’ve instructed many classes for Cooking Matters, but teaching a group of sophisticated, educated women who eat healthy – two earn their livelihoods in the fitness business – was a very different audience than fifth graders or teen moms. Craig encouraged me to simply employ the same principles, and it would be fine. As is usually the case, he was right.

I had the kitchen laid out in four stations, and everyone jumped in and got cooking. Karyn made the whole wheat pizza dough that would be used for a half-and-half pizza:  barbecue chicken pizza with red peppers and the other half with roasted vegetablesJenny made the low-sugar, low-fat barbecue sauce, sautéing peppers and mushrooms, and Maddie chopped and roasted the vegetables that with pesto are also good over big whole wheat pasta such as penne. 

Meanwhile, Millie took off with the recipes using cooked quinoa and grilled chicken breasts, which I prepared the night before. She and the group made a scrumptious "hot dish" a.k.a. casserole with the quinoa and chicken, Madeira wine, mushrooms, and sweet potato and a salad also using the quinoa and chicken with toasted walnuts, dried cherries, feta. Great contrast of textures, colors, and tastes. Millie decided it needed something and a splash of sherry vinegar was just thing. Sherry vinegar has a complex but balanced sweet and sour taste, oaky and nutty from the sherry wine used as its base. It is one of my favorite secret weapons, and I shared how it makes a fresh summer corn and tomato salad come to life. Everyone tasted tested and agreed it could probably jazz up a lot of dishes.

I was so busy talking and answering questions that many taking photos of our spectacular evening fell by the wayside.

I've made this pizza for years, very similar to The Original BBQ Pizza from California Pizza Kitchen. Founders Larry Flax and Rick Rosenfield knew they had a hit with this one, combining all-American favorites, barbecued chicken and pizza. Pizza has never been the same since with non-traditional toppings coming center stage on pizzas. I changed it to add red peppers, and use less cheese and whole wheat pizza crust. Sauté whatever vegtables you have on hand – mushrooms, zucchini, yellow squash, spinach, even broccoli or eggplant.

Barbecue Chicken and Red Bell Pepper Pizza
Servings:  5

1 cup thinly sliced red bell peppers
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups cooked chicken, cut into 1/2" cubes, tossed in 2-3 tablespoons barbecue sauce
1/2 to 3/4 cups barbecue sauce
1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup gouda cheese
3 tablespoons red onion, sliced
2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 450°. Position pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven.

Sauté yellow and red bell peppers in olive oil until softened.

Roll out a pizza dough and spread with enough barbecue sauce to nicely cover the crust, about 1/2 to 3/4 cups. Top with half of the two cheeses. Add chicken, sautéed bell peppers, and red onion. Top with remaining cheese.

Bake until cheese is melted and golden brown, about 12-15 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro, cut into slices and serve

Barbecue Sauce
This sauce is versatile and can be used on everything – a sauce for pizza as we used it, mixed with shredded pork or beef for sandwiches, or as a baste for grilled chicken breasts. The liquid smoke in combination with the Worcestershire, vinegar, and chile powder, give the sauce a nice depth, and it is not overly sweet or thick. I am no ‘cue expert, but I think it falls into the category of a St. Louis style sauce rather than Kansas City or Texas.

This easily doubles and keeps well in the frig for a few days.

1 cup tomato sauce
3 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup finely minced onion
2 garlic cloves minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 tablespoon liquid smoke
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate.
Karyn, Millie, Me, Jenny, and Maddy

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