Cooking class: the prep

As with any majorly fun event in my life, I am approaching the recap of the cooking class in installments. For those of you who are new here *waving enthusiastically*, my friend Cassia and I taught a cooking class two Fridays ago to 20 lovely women from our church as part of our Women’s Ministry series. Or was it 18 women plus me and Cassia? Who knows! Anyway, since neither of us are professional cooks and neither of us had done anything remotely like this in the past, we tried our best to ready ourselves by experimenting with recipes on our own, and then coming together to do a dry run the weekend before. But nothing could have prepared us for the fun, chaotic, exhausting, joyous, sweaty, overwhelming and wonderful experience it was going to be.

Today I bring you pictures of the prep work, which started at 12 when Cassia picked me up from work. Full of vim and vigor, we headed to the grocery store. Hundreds of dollars later, we had a cart chock full of goodies:

As you can tell, we were quite excited.

In order to fit all the groceries in the trunk of Cassia’s cute little yellow car, we had to lower the seat. And let me use this opportunity to share my favorite new expression: Cram it in the boot!

‘Boot’ is the Britishism for ‘trunk.’ It’s such a funny expression–really, you should say it out loud. You’ll probably start laughing. Cram it in the boot! Cram it in the boot!

Wow, I am seriously cracking up over here.

With me, it doesn’t take much.

Anyway! Our next stop was a lovely wine shop called Lush.

The woman working there was so helpful, and recommended wine pairings for each of our courses. I never realized you could just waltz into a wine shop and ask them to tell you what wine to get. How convenient!

I don’t know why I didn’t realize this before–after all, they are trained professionals.

By the way, check out those awesome chandeliers made with wine glasses. What a great idea!

Cassia made the final wine selections, including this lovely bottle for our ‘personal use.’

We figured we had hours of work ahead of us, and a nice smooth red would help moves things along, so to speak. After all, the cooks must be taken care of.

Lush had designated shelves full of wines all under $10–perfect!

We arrived at Traci’s house around 1:30. Since the event was scheduled to start at 6:30, we figured we would have oodles of time to spare.


Our first task was to organize all the groceries between the fridge, the pantry, and the counter, chill the wine, and decide what we needed to cook first: we needed a play-by-play game plan.

I thought we would be swimming in space in Traci’s large and gorgeous kitchen, but once the groceries were laid out, the space seemed oddly smaller. But there was no time to contemplate that, because it was time to cook! We started out by making the components for the Fruit Pizza, baking up rounds of sugar cookie dough for each lady to make her own individual pizza, and mixing up a simple cream cheese frosting.

The first small fiasco occurred when I attempted to soften a couple sticks of butter and instead inundated Traci’s microwave with melted butter. Lesson learned: microwave power varies from machine to machine. I wanted to take a picture to show you my misadventure (to encourage the whole ‘laughing with me’ thing), but my hands were covered in grease, and my Nikon was looking at me reproachfully.

Don’t you touch me with those buttery fingers! warned the 18-50mm lens.

I focused on the Fruit Pizza side of things while Cassia started to make a triple recipe of Roasted Red Pepper Soup.

I’ve never seen so many red peppers together in my life–I think we spent about $40 on red peppers alone. Phew!

And that picture only shows 15 of them–there were 24 total. Yowza.

We had six lovely birds to cook up and 1 1/2 ovens in which to accomplish this, so we planned on making 3 in advance, and 3 during the class itself.

Hello, little winged friends!

You’re looking mighty tasty. Let’s stuff this chicken with lemon and garlic.

Cram it in the boot!

While the chickens were roasting, it was time for a 10 minute breather and a cuppa red.

Traci’s precious daughters wandered in and out of the kitchen.

I took a handful of pictures of them that I can’t wait to show you tomorrow. They are the most beautiful and adorable girls–the kind of kids that make me want to have kids immediately. Kids with sprinklings of freckles like Bronagh’s and kids with headfuls of rampant curls like Ashling’s.

Traci and Jamie worked steadily as well, setting tables and making a run to the store for some paper products. Thank heavens for those paper products–there were enough dishes without ‘real’ plates to keep us busy for a couple hours after the event.

Hi Jamie! You were invaluable. And amazing. And you did a great job assembling those little recipe packets. I would also like to take this chance to dub you ‘The Dishes Warrior.’ I think you probably washed over 100 dishes. Maybe 1,000, I don’t know.

As 6:30 drew nearer, Traci and Jamie set three beautiful tables to accomodate the lot of us. Meanwhile, Cassia and I laid the ingredients out in groupings by recipe, gathering all the equipment we’d need to cook them.

We also had some problem-solving to do: where the heck are we going to put 6 roasted chickens without consuming the counter space? How are we going to make 4 batches of brussel sprouts when we only have 2 burners available? How are we going to handle the wine tasting during the meal when there are 3 separate tables but only 2 bottles of each wine?

The stove, piled high with pots and pans, girded its loins as if for battle.

Whoever uses the most burners . . . wins!

I win.

Here’s the ingredient grouping for the polenta and for the rosemary garlic lemon chicken (minus the chicken)–it looks like chaos, but a trained eye will soon see order.

My eye must have un-trained itself between then and now, because all I’m getting from this picture is confusion. Hmmmm. All that comes to mind is . . .

Cram it in the boot!

Sorry, that’s the last time I’ll say it.

If you’re lucky. Heh heh.

The counter was set with a cutting board for Cassia and me and 7 cutting board ‘stations’ for the ladies to share. The brussel sprouts were distributed among the stations, along with carrots and celery for the short, introductory knife skills lesson.

The knives were glinting, sharp and ready to be put to work.

Traci and Jamie set out snacks and finger food–have I mentioned that I eat wasabi peas like an addict?

And finally: everything was ready.

Cassia and I collapsed onto the couch around 6:15 and finished off the wine. (And technically, this picture was taken hours earlier during our breather, but the narrative demanded that it be placed here.)

The hard part is over,” I told myself as I nonchalantly ate another handful of wasabi peas. “The women will do the actual cooking; we just have to tell them what to do. Everything is organized, we’ll just effortlessly float through the recipes, and we should be sitting down to eat by 8:30 at the latest.”


The expression ‘little did she know’ would be quite apt at this narrative juncture.

To be continued . . .

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22 Responses to Cooking class: the prep

  1. Cram it in the boot!! I’m going to say that at least ten times today, just for fun. Looks like things went well! Can’t wait for the next chapter.

  2. Circe says:

    I’m laughing like a fool at two things:

    Cram it in the boot, obviously…

    and a wine store called “Lush” it’s just too good to be true

  3. I always find that prepping is the least fun part of any cooking class. Can’t wait to see the rest of the post, Jenna! :)

  4. Wendi says:

    The Mistah and I went around saying Cram It In The Boot for days after the Super Bowl. A wine shop named Lush? Perfection.

    • Jenna says:

      Haha! That’s awesome. Yeah, I was blissfully unaware of the commercial until my husband started quoting it, and then it really stuck! I think it’s possibly the most hilarious expression ever.

  5. surlykitchen says:

    wow, that is a lot of food! looks like it went well. i’m incredibly jealous of that beautiful, commercial stove top. *drool*

  6. skippymom says:

    Have to agree – a wine store called “Lush” is a must in every neighborhood. Wonderful

    Wow – the dinner looks delicious. I love citrus on chicken, yum – and brussel sprouts – can’t wait to see how you cooked them.

    And the butter thing – Been there, done that bought the t shirt bought a new microwave.

  7. Candace says:

    I think Lush is THE perfect name for that store. Love. I cannot think of a better way to spend time than what you have described here. Oh, to have some friends in my new town to share that with would be a must….AND….a fabulous kitchen to spend it in like you had. Fun Fun Fun! Can I come next time? I really appreciate your stopping by to say hello today and introducing your blog to me. I’m going happily follow along with you. Have a great week! Candace

  8. Megan Elaine says:

    Jenna – wow does that all look amazing! And that wine store, I die!!

    The kitchen may have also made my heart skip a beat, goodness! Sure beats my dinky apartment kitchen. Oi.


  9. Rita says:

    Oh, it must have been so funny!!! I’d love to do something like that at home with some friends… :P
    The wine store was amazing! Yeah, I agree that Lush IS the perfect name! :)

  10. A) I look like I’m going to engulf all of our groceries and maniacally eat them in the parking lot
    B) I too and a huge fan of the “cram it in the boot” saying and I laughed out loud in stats class when I was reading this instead of paying attention
    C) I love that relaxation before the storm hit picture, you look so happy and calm

  11. erica says:

    bien. crammerinnaboot.

  12. Jen says:

    I suddenly have a strange craving for wasabi peas….there’s some wasabi in the fridge. Maybe that’ll have to do for now.

    • Jenna says:

      Dude, straight wasabi???? Is she mad???
      By the way, I just got the newest Flavia book from the library. I’m saving it for a little later to help me get through the day at work (it’s gonna be slow …).

  13. Helen says:

    Hello from Aus, can totally relate to “cram it in the boot”, trunk is an such an odd word for me. Although I’m likely to tell you to “shove it in the boot”, or possibly, with so many bags, I might suggest that you “jam them in the boot”.
    Really enjoy your blog Jenna, been happily lurking in the background for a month or so reading away and happily making myself batches of your sweet and sour mushrooms.

    • Jenna says:

      Hi Helen! I love the variations of ‘jam’ and ‘shove’ and might have to use them in my everyday life.
      I’m glad you like the sweet and sour mushrooms! I’m a sucker for mushrooms of any kind.

  14. Kimby says:

    What a fun post! “We’ll just float through the recipes…”, lol — isn’t it true? Sometimes our expectations don’t turn out the way we think, but what better way to enjoy the chaos than with a great friend — and a great glass of wine. :) Looking forward to “the rest of the story…”

  15. Marco says:

    Boot or trunk…….Please say Kofferbak….Dutch for trunk!

  16. Veronica says:

    LOL @ cram it in the boot! Quite fitting with the hen. LOL! Oh, these things are always more time-consuming and difficult than you expect. Can’t wait for part 2!

  17. Mads says:

    What a great post! I can’t help but laugh along with you and wait for the next post.
    The stations look like so much fun. That would be a blast.

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