Friday Night Cooking Class/ Season Finale/ Le Villa

Here we are at the end of our cooking classes for another season and I have a real treat for you this time. Rick the owner of Le Villa restaurant graciously agreed to do the season finale for us and teach the girls about what it is like to cook in a restaurant kitchen. We were all thrilled to watch a professional chef in action. All three of us took a lot away from that afternoon plus very full stomachs!! Our meal was out of this world fantastic and I can’t say more about this fine restaurant. Their food is consistently marvellous and new creative items are popping up on the menu. For example this out of the world Pan Fried Steelhead Trout with seared scallop, citrus hollandaise, lobster risotto and arugula with truffle oil. The girls were able to watch Rick prepare this dish emphasizing the importance of a very hot well seasoned fry pan so the fish will never stick. The fish was seasoned only with sea salt and fresh pepper. It was cooked with the skin on which turned crispy and delightful. If you know me you know I don’t like risotto but this lobster risotto was like nothing I had before. Absolutely cooked to perfection. The girls gobbled down the meal even enjoying the arugula and truffle oil which goes perfectly with the rest of the plate. The crowning glory for them was the scallop that melted in their mouths. A fabulous meal that you must try.

Secondly, what do you mean there’s more!!! Rick prepared a very classic yet divinely delicious Steak Diane. The girls again learned the importance of a very hot and well seasoned pan along with a simple application of a light dredge of flour on the beef tenderloin medallions to seal in the juices. They now got to get in closer to see all the ingredients being added to make the sauce, like brown stock, Dijon mustard and the flaming of brandy. Whooooosh!! And finally the drizzling of whipping cream that was making them lick their lips. The steak is then presented over heavenly Boursin mashed potatoes and perfectly cooked seasonal vegetable. They loved the baby turnips!!

After the girls devoured the steak with ooohs and aaahs they wanted to move onto dessert. Really??? I was stuffed but they insisted on trying a classic espresso creme brulee. They were able to watch the pastry chef tranform the plain sugar into a crispy crunchy topping and decorate it with whipped cream, chocolate bark and fresh berries. Simply decadent!! They loved every spoonful and said they had never had such a great meal. Amber asked why we couldn’t come there every night!!!

Upon asking for the bill I was shocked to find out that Rick had graciously treated us to this entire experience. We are all truly grateful and will cherish this afternoon in fine dining as one of the best experiences that FNCC has had to offer us!! I am blessed to have this time together with the girls laughing and sharing food and look forward to the next season to see what the girls dream up for us to do. Stay tuned for more to come in the fall.

Come and dine at Le Villa located at #404, 1851 Sirocco Drive SW, Calgary, AB. For reservations call 403-217-9699. Their website is

Friday Night Cooking Class/Cheese Ravioli with Red Pepper Tomato Sauce

Rebecca is here again to cook with us in the kitchen. She wanted a simple pasta dish. I guess I didn’t quite know her definition of simple. The pasta dish is a simple and light ravioli but it is not simple to make. The girls had fun making the sauce and filling and rolling out the pasta. They were thrilled with their accomplishments and it turned out fantastic. This is the last post before the season finale for FNCC. I hope you enjoy this recipe. I have had it for years and it is from a Food Network show that was on in the late 90′s called Cooking Live hosted by Sara Moulton. Enjoy!!

For The Sauce:

28 oz. can plum tomatoes
1 large red bell pepper, chopped coarse
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 onions, chopped coarse
1/2 cup of chicken or vegetable stock

For the filling:

3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
4 oz. mozzarella, grated coarse
1/2 cup ricotta
2 Tbsp. snipped fresh chives
1 lb. processor pasta dough
Chives for garnish
Parmesan for garnish

Pasta Dough

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 large eggs, beaten lightly
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp. water plus additional if necessary

To Make The Pasta Dough

In a Food Processor blend flour, eggs, oil and 1 1/2 Tbsp. water until mixture just begins to form a ball, adding additional water, drop by drop, if dough is too dry. Dough should be firm and not sticky. Blend dough for 15 seconds more to knead and let stand, covered with a tea towel and a inverted bowl for one hour at room temperature. Yield:1 lb.

To Make The Sauce:

While dough is resting make the sauce. In a saucepan combine the tomatoes with their juice, bell pepper, garlic, onions and stock and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce and simmer the mixture covered, stirring occasionally for 30-40 min. or until vegetables are very tender. Using a hand held blender puree the ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste and simmer until the sauce has reduced and is thickened.

To Make the Filling:

Combine all filling ingredients gently mixing them together and adding salt and pepper to taste.

Rolling out the dough:

With a pasta machine start on the widest setting put 1/3 of your dough through the machine, add a sprinkling of flour to one side, fold in half and put the dough through the pasta machine again.  Adjust the pasta machine to one size smaller and run the dough through, continue to adjust the machine smaller and smaller until you reach the desired thickness for your dough.  I usually put it through twice on each setting, we have a Roscan 150 mm Deluxe Pasta Machine and for this recipe I like to go to setting number 6, any more than that and I find the dough to be to thin to work with easily.

Lightly flour your counter and lay the dough out flat.  Place a rounded teaspoon size amount of your cheese filling approximately 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart all the way along the bottom third of the dough.  Lightly moisten all the edges of the dough and in between each dollop of filling with water and fold the dough in half over the filling. Seal all the edges around each mound, then using a pizza cutter or knife cut between each cheese packet.  Place each one on a lightly floured cookie sheet and cover with slightly damp tea towel.  Continue with the remaining 2/3′s of the pasta dough in the same manner.

Working in batches, place 6-9 ravioli packets in well salted boiling water for approximately 6 minute, using a slotted spoon remove to a plate, I use a paper towel to dab up any excess water from the plate, continue in this manner until all the pasta packets are cooked. Place 4-5 ravioli per plate and top with sauce, Parmesan cheese and chives. Delicious!!

Recipe adapted from “Cooking Live” with Sara Moulton

Friday Night Cooking Class/Macaroni and Cheese

Welcome Jenna back again everyone!! Her pick this time was macaroni and cheese. I immediately go to Martha Stewart’s recipe when I think of mac and cheese. I must have made this a hundred times. My recipe is yellowed, torn, tattered and spilled on. A sign of a good recipe! The girls had fun making this one. Amber even opted to grate all that cheese herself rather than use the food processor. Good on ya girl!!! Jenna is always a delight to work with, full of cooperation and giggles. The end product turned out wonderful and the girls gobbled it down with a nice salad. You have to try this recipe. It is good old comfort food at it’s best!!!

8 Tbsp. butter, plus more for the dish or dishes
6 slices whole wheat bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4-1/2 pieces
5 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
4 1/2 cups old white cheddar cheese, grated
2 cups Gruyere, grated
1 lb. elbow macaroni

Heat oven to 375F. Butter a 3 quart casserole dish or two smaller ones, I usually stick one in the freezer to have at a later date. Just thaw and bake accordingly. Place the bread in a medium bowl and microwave 2 Tbsp. butter until melted. Pour butter over bread and toss. Set the bread crumbs aside. Fill a large pasta pot with salted water and heat over high heat.

Meanwhile in a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat the milk. Then melt the remaining 6 Tbsp. butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When the butter bubbles add the flour and whisk cooking for 1 min. While whisking slowly pour in the hot milk a bit at a time until all is incorporated. Let the mixture thicken and bubble while whisking constantly. Remove from heat and add the salt, nutmeg, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Whisk well. Then add 3 cups cheddar cheese and 1 1/2 cups Gruyere, set cheese sauce aside but stir occasionally so the mixture doesn’t form a skin on top.

Once water is boiling in the large pasta pot add the macaroni and cook until al dente. You really want it underdone as it will continue to cook in the oven. Follow the manufacturers instructions. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water. Stir macaroni into the cheese sauce. Pour mixture into the prepared dish or dishes. Sprinkle on remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar and 1/2 cup Gruyere followed by the bread crumbs. Bake for 45-60 min. until browned on the top and bubbling in the middle. Let cool for 5 min. Ken and I both love it with Frank’s red hot sauce. We put the sh#$^@ on everything, well maybe not but our mac and cheese for sure!!!

Recipe adapted slightly from Martha Stewart

Souvlaki Dinner/Friday Night Cooking Class

Welcome Janine everyone!! She is Amber’s longest standing friend. They met in daycare and have maintained a friendship ever since. Even now being on the other side of the city. It might be six months that they don’t see each other but they have always seemed to pick up where they left off. For this meal we even did the shopping together. It was a good learning experience for them to touch and smell the different ingredients and to know what to look for in a specific vegetable or herb. I got the basic ingredients and we kind of made things up as we went. It turned out to be the most fabulous meal. One of the top FNCC for sure!! I hope you try these recipes as they are keepers!!! I had bought the umami paste recently when I took a cooking course and it was so fantastic in the souvlaki. Have a scout around for it at your specialty store, it will give anything a kick start!! It is touted as taste #5 after sweet, salty, bitter and sour. It is from the same company that did the spices I had shown you eons ago from Laura Santtini. Amazing!!


1 medium cucumber
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 1/2 cups Greek style plain yogurt 0% fat
2 Tbsp. fresh dill, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. white pepper or to taste

Slice the cucmber lenghtwise and with a spoon, dragging it down the center of the cucumber remove the seeds. Grate and place into a bowl with the salt. Let it sit for 20 min. while you get the rest of the ingredients ready to extract the water from the cucmber. Mix yogurt with dill, garlic, lemon juice and white pepper. Drain the cucmber in a sieve and with the back of a spoon gently squeeze the cucumber to get as much moisture out of it as you can. Mix into the yogurt mixture, cover and refigerate for 2 hours so that the flavour can meld.


2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into halves or thirds depending on the size
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 Tbsp. oregano, minced
1 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 tsp. umami paste (optional but fantastic)
A mixture of red pepper, green pepper, white onion, tomatoes etc. or whatever vegetable you prefer cut into chunks

Whisk olive oil into the lemon juice slowly. Then stir in the garlic, oregano, salt, pepper and umami. Place chicken in a ziploc bag and pour marinade over. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours. Slide meat onto skewers with desired veggies and grill on a medium BBQ until the chicken is cooked all the way through. You can omit the veggies and just do meat kabobs but we like our veggies in this house, the more the merrier!!


3/4 cup rice
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 1/3 cup chicken stock
1 tsp. butter
Toasted pine nuts for garnish
Parsley, chopped for garnish

Cook rice according to package directions with the lemon juice, stock and butter. When done fluff with a fork and serve with the pine nuts and parsley. So good!!!

Celebration Chocolate Cake/Friday Night Cooking Classes

Welcome Luke everyone as our first male chef to join Amber on FNCC. We are so happy to have him. This recipe is from a baking course I took eons ago, actually back in 1994. It was a great day I remember full of wonderful recipes and great ideas. Unfortunately the icing went weird after a very short period of time and I don’t know why. It was beautiful and glossy and then went grainy looking, still tasted smooth and good though. Any suggestions as to what I did wrong??? This is not my specialty as I have an allergy or sensitivity to caffeine but I thought it would be fun for the kids. The cake mix was an interesting and great way for the kids to do it but I wouldn’t recommend the icing recipe. Unless we did something wrong??? I would love your comments so I left the recipe here for you to see.

Group 1

1 3/4 cups white sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
3 cups cake flour (do not use all purpose flour)

Group 2

2 large eggs
3/4 cup sifted cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup boiling strong coffee

Heat oven to 325F. Grease and line with greased wax paper circles, two 9″ cake layer pans. Add ingredients to a large mixing bowl by alternating between group 1 and group 2. So, first in the bowl would be sugar, then eggs, then buttermilk etc. Don’t mix until all ingredients are layered into the bowl beat one minute with an electric mixer at medium speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Pour batter into prepared cake pans. Tap pans on counter to release air bubbles. Bake for 40 min. or until cakes just start to shrink slightly from the sides of the pans and are springy to touch. Cool cakes in pans, 10 min. Then invert and remove and cool completely. Frost with icing as you wish. This cake also freezes well.

Double Rich Chocolate Frosting

Frost 8 or 9″ 2 to 4 layer cake.

1 cup soft butter
2 cups icing sugar
1 1/4 cup sifted cocoa
2 tsp. vanilla
2-4 tsp. milk
2 Tbsp. hot coffee

Place first three ingredients in a food processor and blend for 4 seconds. Add just enough liquid to make soft fluffy icing. Blend until smooth.

Adapted from a Joanne Good recipe.