This week, my sister-in-law, Eva of Pastel Bakery, and I had the pleasure of attending a gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegetarian cooking class at Nature’s Emporium in Newmarket, with holistic nutritionists, Sherri Doak and Natasha Szauter. The hands-on class began with a tasting of goji berry tea with coconut sugar, and a demo of homemade vanilla almond milk and fresh thai spring rolls with spicy peanut sauce.
For the menu items, class participants were broken up into pairs with each pair responsible for preparing a few specific items on the menu (under the guidance of our trusty instructors), that the group shared ‘buffet-style’ at the end of the class. The menu items included: minted pea soup; buckwheat tabbouli; fennel, avocado and orange salad; masala millet cakes/patties with hot pepper mango salsa; walnut basil pesto with chickpea pasta and pine nut “parmesan”; dark chocolate quinoa cupcakes with toasted coconut frosting; cranberry bliss bars; and minty matcha banana mocktail.
Greeting and Demo:
- MM: “I enjoyed the sweet goji berry tea and could not believe how simple it was to make almond milk and fresh thai spring rolls.”
- EA: “Sherri and Natasha were great instructors and hosts! They reviewed the menu with us prior to starting and elaborated on some items regarding health properties, where to find these products in the store, etc. The tea was sooo yummy (and I’m typically not a fan of fruit based teas), the spring rolls were delish and who knew that almond milk was so easy to make!”
- MM: “Admittedly, peas are not my favourite, but I promised Eva I would try the pea soup. It tasted creamy (in a good way), but I could not bring myself to eat the whole bowl. The fennel salad was fresh and light- a nice taste of summer.”
- EA: “The salads were tasty – typically not ingredients I would choose as I didn’t know how to prepare them before this class, but definitely something I would try making myself now. My favourite though was the pea soup. I love pureed soups! It was the perfect combination of peas and leeks with just a hint of mint popping through”
- MM: “The chickpea pasta dish was my favourite (coincidentally one of the dishes Eva and I prepared. It also tasted really good cold the next day for lunch- a good option for my microwave-free workplace). The pasta did not turn mushy after boiling like some other gluten-free pastas (this means you, rice!), plus Sherri told us the protein content was way higher in the chickpea pasta. The mock-parmesan made with pinenuts and nutritional yeast flakes was delicious (tasted just like cheese!), but unfortunately the unfamiliar high-powered blender turned our supposed-to-be grated cheese into more of a paste (whoops!). The millet cakes were a touch too spicy for me, but I think they would make a nice vegetarian option with a few substitutions more suitable for my palate.”
- EA: “Where do I begin?? The millet cakes had just the right amount of a spicy kick to them, and the hot pepper mango sauce was great for dipping. This sweet and spicy combo worked so well together. I had no idea millet could be this delicious! As for the chickpea pasta – it rocked! Umm, why have I been wasting so many years on rice pasta? This pasta has great texture with no weird aftertaste. If we hadn’t made the pesto, I would have never guessed it was made using walnuts. Typically I make pesto with pine nuts, but this is a great alternative (plus, more cost friendly!). I couldn’t believe the pine nut ‘parmesan’ didn’t have any dairy – it was so cheesy! Even though ours turned out creamier then it should have (it was the blenders fault I tell you!), it was still very good.
- MM: “The chocolate quinoa cupcakes were awesome and the coconut frosting was the perfect pairing! The cranberry bars tasted like oatmeal to me; a good apple crisp topping perhaps. The matcha banana mocktail (the other item Eva and I prepared) tasted just like a milkshake. It was not too minty though as, by the time we got to use the in-demand blender, the mint was all but gone. It’s okay, not a fan of too much mint anyway.”
- EA: “The chocolate quinoa cupcakes were super moist and full of chocolatey goodness. Honestly, I couldn’t believe they were made with cooked quinoa; you couldn’t tell at all. And topping them off with the toasted coconut icing was pure bliss. Definitely a frosting I will try making myself. The cranberry bliss bars did taste like oatmeal; they would make a perfect afternoon snack. The minty matcha banana mocktail was very refreshing. It was like summer in a cup!”
- MM: “I enjoyed the demos and also the fact that I didn’t have to keep asking ‘is this gluten-free?’ It was also nice to learn some tips for substituting items for more healthy options, and to get some great recipes to take home.”
- EA: “I enjoyed learning recipes that involved new (for me) and healthy ingredients. It was also nice to sit down together as a group at the end of the class, and enjoy all of our creations.”
Coming Soon to My Kitchen:
- MM: “I will absolutely be making the almond milk, spring rolls, chickpea pasta dish, quinoa cupcakes and matcha mocktail- very soon!”
- EA: “I will definitely try making the desserts (how could I not?). Very easy to make and using minimal ingredients. For the rest, I will absolutely try making these recipes again on my own. “
- MM: “At times it was a little chaotic in the kitchen with participants sharing pots, burners, blenders, etc. Having never attending a cooking class before, I felt a little ‘confused’ at times at what I should be doing, but the instructors were very helpful. Overall, I had fun and would recommend future classes to anyone interested in discovering new options for their special diet. On my evaluation form I requested a ‘gluten-free grilling’ class and a ‘gluten-free pizza-making’ class so hopefully these are on the horizon.”
- EA: “It was a bit chaotic at times with students running around, burners not co-operating, etc; but overall, it was a great experience. Sherri and Natasha did a great job guiding us along the way. I was introduced to tasty ingredients I had never tried, or would have never thought of trying for fear of it tasting ‘different’ (boy was I wrong!). A class I would definitely recommend and recipes I will try again in my own kitchen.
- EA: Thanks Mel for giving me the opportunity to share my experience here on your blog and I’m glad we were able to share this adventure together. Next time, we’ll kick that blenders butt!
- MM: My pleasure! I hope you come back to guest blog again soon!
For more images from this cooking class, visit Nature’s Emporium’s Facebook page at facebook.com/eatwelllivebetter. For information about upcoming healthy living seminars and organic cooking classes in ‘The Living Room,’ visit naturesemporium.com/events.