Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Spring Fling

Although springtime is supposedly here, it’s still in the low-mid 30’s and occasionally snowing in Minnesota—no surprises being that our winter usually extends into May and our summer only lasts about 2 months..3 if we’re lucky!!!

But who says even if the weather isn’t balmy and spring-like outside that you can’t bring spring to the table inside in the form of food? That was my goal for my last cooking class of the spring season. The class was titled “Spring Fling” and featured a five course spring meal highlighting all the produce and fresh foods that are abundant this time of year.

But first, check out my other past cooking classes here if you missed them before:

First off, I  started the class with a springtime quiz. I had students put their name in a bowl and the name drawn won these, courtesy of Cassie’s Cupcake Creations.

Then it was time to explain the game plan for the five-course menu. It started with the first course appetizer; Red Pepper Pimento Cheese Dip which I chose to serve in a red pepper!


Showing how to serve it & explaining options for garnishes, in this case I used a basil leaf.



Red Pepper Pimento Cheese Dip


  • 1 1/4 cups mayonnaise
  • 1/2 (12-oz.) jar roasted red bell peppers, drained and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated onion
  • 2 teaspoons coarse-ground mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 2 (10-oz.) blocks sharp white Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Assorted crackers
  • Bell pepper for serving, hollowed out, if desired


  • Stir together mayonnaise and next 4 ingredients until well blended; stir in cheese and black pepper to taste. Serve with assorted crackers, in red bell pepper if desired. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container up to 4 days.

Next up was the second course; spinach salad with a homemade buttermilk chive dressing.


 Spinach Salad with Buttermilk Chive Dressing


  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons sliced fresh chives
  • 6 cups lightly packed baby spinach
  • 1 cup radishes, cut into matchstick-size strips or thinly sliced*
  • 1 cup  mixed greens
  • 1 hard-cooked egg, chopped**


  • Whisk mayonnaise, lemon juice, sugar, salt and pepper in small bowl. Gradually whisk in buttermilk. Stir in chives; pour into serving bowl.
  • Toss spinach, radishes and pea shoots in large bowl; sprinkle with egg. Serve with dressing on the side.

Third course was  the appetizer; roasted asparagus with parmesan garlic crumbs.


Roasted Asparagus with Parmesan Garlic Crumbs


  • 1/4 cup panko*
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons plus l tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • Dash cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 lb. asparagus, peeled if desired
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper


  • Heat oven to 400°F. Combine panko, cheese, 2 teaspoons of the oil, garlic and cayenne pepper in shallow baking dish or pie pan. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown and crisp, stirring several times and watching closely; place in small bowl. Increase oven temperature to 450°F.
  • Place asparagus on large rimmed baking sheet in single layer; sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon oil, salt and pepper. Roll asparagus to coat. Bake at 450°F. for 7 to 12 minutes or until tender, turning once or twice. Sprinkle with panko mixture.

The fourth course, or main dish, was the Artichoke Cheese Tortellini.


Artichoke Cheese Tortellini


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 (14.5-oz.) cans Italian-seasoned diced tomatoes
  • 1 (12-oz.) jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained, coarsely chopped
  • 1 (2 1/4-oz.) cans sliced ripe olives, drained
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 (9-oz.) pkg. refrigerated cheese tortellini
  • 1 (10-oz.) container refrigerated Alfredo sauce
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese


1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat until hot. Cook onion 5 to 7 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; cook and stir 30 seconds.
2. Stir in tomatoes, artichoke hearts, olives, parsley, basil, oregano, salt and crushed red pepper; bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer, covered, 12 to 15 minutes or until slightly thickened.
3. Meanwhile, cook tortellini according to package directions; drain. Stir tortellini into tomato mixture.
4. Heat Alfredo sauce in small saucepan over medium heat until hot. Drizzle tortellini with Alfredo sauce; sprinkle with cheese.

And saving the best for last the final and fifth course, dessert, which was Banana-Almond-Topped Pastry Puffs.


Banana-Almond-Topped Pastry Puffs


  • 1/2 (17.3-ounce) package frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
  • 1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/3 cup cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar
  • 1 large banana, cut into 9 slices
  • 3 tablespoons orange marmalade
  • 3 tablespoons chopped almonds


  1. Preheat oven to 400°. Cut pastry sheet into 9 squares; place on a baking sheet. Lightly score the top of each pastry square. Bake for 12 minutes, or until puffed and golden. Cool.
  2. In a small bowl, combine cheeses and sugar. Cut each banana slice lengthwise into thin slices. Gently spread about 1 tablespoon cheese mixture over each pastry puff. Divide banana slices over cheese mixture. Top each with 1 teaspoon marmalade and 1 teaspoon almonds. Garnish with mint, if desired. Serve immediately.

My classes this spring were all a really good time, I am already looking forward to teaching a new line-up of classes next fall. And of course, just like the rest of my classes, the Spring Fling class would not have been successful without my wonderful students/helpers.

Check em’ out in action!!

CIMG4931CIMG4932  CIMG4935 CIMG4938

What is your favorite springtime meal?


Krista said...

Teaching must be so fun! I don't know that I have one spring time fave, but I certainly get back into salads!

Tasha @ Voracious said...

Okay, we might be tastebud twins. EVERY dish you prepared is something that I would love to eat. I adore red peppers and pimento cheese, spinach is a rare treat around here and topping it with that dreamy dressing sounds heavenly, and I'm not sure there's anything better than asparagus topped with parmesan garlic bread crumbs. I could eat that whole pan myself! What a great class!

Kelly said...

Fun! I love that you are still teaching. What a fun gig.