Friday, February 11, 2011

An Evening With Williams and Sonoma

This past Tuesday evening I attended my first cooking class at a local Williams and Sonoma store. This is a treat I've dreamed of doing for many years and I am so thrilled that I finally decided to do it! Of course I like to think I can cook but you know you can ALWAYS learn something from the professionals.

One of the first things that our instructor, Anne Terrell shared with us was that she hoped that each and every one of us would learn at least one new thing during the class. She also shared some of her background accented with the fact that she graduated from a local culinary school and has worked as a chef in various restaurants around Atlanta, before landing at Williams Sonoma. It's obvious she loves what she is doing.

Our class was titled "Simple Yet Sophisticated Dinner Party" with the description - "This memorable meal is sure to impress your guests, yet you won't need to spend all day preparing it." The original menu:

Romaine, Gorgonzola and Walnut Salad
Pork Chops with Garlic and Herbs
Bittersweet Chocolate Cake

Ms. Terrell, instead showed us how to prepare:

Romaine, Gorgonzola, Grape and Walnut Salad (has a wonderful walnut vinaigrette dressing)
Pork Chops with Garlic and Herbs
Potato Pancake
Glazed Carrots
Strawberry Tart with Orange Cream

Everything was just wonderful, very tasty, and well presented. We were truly impressed with how Ms. Terrell cooked and prepared every dish in the make-shift kitchen in the Williams Sonoma store using an All-Clad counter-top grill, a convection oven, and stove top. Well, and she did have the best of the best available to her at any given time so I imagine that helped!

A few takeaways for me:

- using a ceramic knife will prevent fruits and vegetables from browning (oxidizing) because it's blade is nonreactive. Who knew? (I'll be getting my set next month)
- a juicer is a must-have item for any home cook (I'll be getting mine next month)
- and lastly, sparkling water is most awesome!! They served this to us during our class. I watched to see where it was coming from and they were making it from a SodaStream machine. I went to Bed, Bath, and Beyond the next night and purchased one for myself!! I love it!!

Ms. Terrell conducted the class with ease and even though she used WS products, she didn't overly promote them which was refreshing. Overall, I was very impressed with the entire class, so impressed that I signed up for the next four classes!! I can hardly wait until March when we will be doing "Brunch Favorites" which includes a menu of Very Berry Smoothies, Strata with Asparagus, Sausage and Fontina, Apple Pancakes, and Brown Sugar Macadamia Nut Coffee Cake!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad Pin It

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

His Special Day!!

Today is Groundhog Day and in his honor (and more especially so that we impress him so he brings Spring on really fast) we annually hold a bash at work in his honor. Again, just another excuse to make goodies for the co-workers!!

My contributions for the day include Wonton Tacos (yes, an oxymoron but delicious nonetheless) and Groundhog Cupcakes. For the Wonton Tacos, I simply browned some ground round, added hot taco seasoning and chopped jalapenos. Then I took Wonton wrappers and put them in my mini-muffin pan filling them full of the cooked hamburger mixture. Then topped with cheese and baked for 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven. That's it although next time I will get tomato and lettuce to top them with just before serving. That would make a complete taco!

As for the Groundhog Cupcakes, here are the recipes. I used Martha's recipe for the cupcakes and the Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe for the icing.

White Cupcakes (by Martha Stewart)

Makes 3 dozen
  • 4 1/2 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 7 large egg whites


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake or muffin tins with papers; set aside. Into a medium bowl, sift together cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Combine milk and vanilla in a glass measuring cup.
  2. Place butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and beat until pale and creamy. With mixer on medium speed, gradually add sugar in a steady stream; continue beating until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low.
  3. Add flour mixture to butter mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk mixture and starting and ending with the flour. Do not overbeat.
  4. In a clean bowl of electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Fold one-third of the whites into flour mixture to lighten. Fold in remaining egg whites in two batches, being careful not to deflate the whites.
  5. Pour batter into prepared tins, filling cups to about 1/2 inch from the tops. Bake until a cake tester inserted near the centers comes out clean and the tops spring back when pressed lightly in the center, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven; let cool completely before icing or storing.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream for Cupcakes (by Martha Stewart)


Makes about 9 cups, enough for about 28 cupcakes

  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 10 large egg whites
  • 4 cups (8 sticks or 2 pounds) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


  1. Place sugar and egg whites in the heat-proof bowl of an electric mixer. Set bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, and whisk until sugar has dissolved and egg whites are hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. Test by rubbing the mixture between your fingers; it should feel completely smooth.
  2. Transfer bowl to mixer stand. Using the whisk attachment, beat on high speed until mixture has cooled completely and formed stiff and glossy peaks, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the butter, one piece at a time, and beat until incorporated after each addition. Don't worry if the buttercream appears curdled after all the butter has been added; it will become smooth again with continued beating. Add vanilla, and beat just until combined.
  4. Switch to the paddle attachment, and beat on the lowest speed to eliminate any air pockets, about 5 minutes. If using buttercream within several hours, cover bowl with plastic wrap, and set aside at room temperature in a cool environment. Or transfer to an airtight container, and store in the refrigerator, up to 3 days. Before using, bring buttercream to room temperature, and beat on the lowest speed with the paddle attachment until smooth, about 5 minutes.
Now, for decorating the cupcakes. Here are those instructions:

  • Baked cupcakes
  • Almond Joy candy
  • White frosting
  • White jelly beans
  • Black decorators' gel
  • Watermelon slice candy
  • Brown M&M's Minis
  • Chocolate cookie
Remove a piece of cake the width of an Almond Joy candy from the center of a baked cupcake. Set the candy upright in the hole, then spread a layer of white frosting on the cupcake.

For the groundhog's eyes, trim the ends from a white jelly bean, stick them in place with frosting, then dot them with black decorators' gel. Add a tiny triangle cut from a watermelon slice candy for a nose, brown M&M's Minis for ears and cheeks, and a tiny rectangular piece of white jelly bean for teeth. Sprinkle chocolate cookie crumbs around the partially emerged groundhog, and he's ready to greet his fans. Pin It