Boot Camp - Week 1

...not that kind of boot camp

In February 2008, I enrolled in a 10 week cooking class called Boot Camp. It was being offered by a place called The Kitchen Workshop in Paoli.

I stumbled on the website one night when I was searching online for cooking classes in my area. Before I committed to the 10 week class, I decided to try one of the one-night classes. They offer tons and tons of one-night classes that focus on a theme. All it took was one class and I was hooked...I signed up for Boot Camp and the rest is history. I've been a cooking fanatic ever since.

When I found out that there was a Boot Camp 2 being offered...I was thrilled! Not only do I get to go to class every Sunday night, but I also can go to any of the weeknight classes that interest me.

In a typical three hour class, you work cooperatively to make a whole menu of food and then enjoy it together with complimentary wine. Sometimes there are leftovers that you can take home!On Sunday, we focused on using some excess vegetables that some of the students had gotten from their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). We did a couple really good recipes using rhubarb. Rhubarb is a vegetable that looks kind of like celery, but it's a purple color. You can only eat the stalks because the leaves are poisonous to eat (not scary poisonous, just not edible).

Rhubarb Chutney
~This is an incredibly versatile recipe~

  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 1/2 tbsp minced fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp grated orange peel
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 4 1/2 cups coarsely chopped rhubarb (from 1 3/4 lbs rhubarb)
  • 3/4 cup dried currants (golden raisins work nicely, too)
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  1. Stir sugar, vinegar, cinnamon sticks, ginger, orange peel, and cardamom in a large saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves and mixture boils.
  2. Add rhubarb and currants. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to let it simmer until rhubarb is tender, but not falling apart (this only takes 4 to 5 minutes).
  3. Add the green onions and cool to room temperature. Discard the cinnamon sticks.
  4. Cover and refrigerate chutney until cold, at least 1 hour.
  • This can be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge. It keeps for weeks and weeks, so it's great to have on hand.
  • This is great on bread or crackers with cheddar cheese.
  • It's also great with chicken salad.
  • You can just bake some chicken breasts with a bit of salt and pepper and then add the chutney as a sauce.
  • We've really enjoyed it on spicy or sweet sausages.
Country Rhubarb Cake
~This is surprisingly delicious cake~

  • 1 lb fresh rhubarb stalks, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs (1 separated)
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degress. Butter a 10 inch glass or ceramic pie plate or a 2 1/2 quart oval gratin dish.
  2. Toss rhubarb with brown sugar in a bowl until coated.
  3. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl until well combined. Blend in butter with a pastry blender or your fingertips until mixture resembles course meal (butter is the size of peas).
  4. Whisk together milk, whole egg, and yolk. Make a well in center of flour mixture and add milk mixture, stirring with a wooden soon to gradually incorporate the flour to form a soft, sticky dough.
  5. Transfer half of dough to pie plate or baking dish and pat out over bottom and halfway up side with well-floured hands, then spoon rhubarb and any juices onto dough. *
  6. Using a tablespoon, spoon remaining dough in small mounds evenly over top. Lightly beat egg white with a few drops of water, then brush cake with egg wash. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tbsp sugar over top.
  7. Bake until top crust is golden and rhubarb is tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool, about 30 minutes. It tastes great served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
* We actually did this differently in class. We dumped the rhubarb directly into the baking dish and then topped it with the entire dough mixture. It worked nicely.

There are so many other recipes we did in both Sunday's class and Monday's "Cooking with Puff Pastry and Phylo Dough" class, but I'll share the rest in future posts. I wish I had taken pictures! I will try to remember my camera next week. I will share the recipes and my experiences as I go through this class.

I'll leave you with my strategy for getting meals on the table this week. I found a huge family pack of chicken breasts at Wegman's for $1.99 a pound and I have a package of chicken sausages in the freezer. So I figured I could make a few meals to last us through the week.

Monday: My husband came to cooking class with me and we feasted on delicious food.

Tuesday: I roasted 5 chicken breasts in the oven with salt and pepper (I sprinkled some Greek seasoning on two of them). I took the rest of the chicken breasts in the family pack and froze them for future meals. Below the chicken, I roasted some broccoli florets tossed with olive oil and salt. I topped three of the chicken breasts with Rhubarb Chutney (left over from class) and served two for dinner alongside the roasted broccoli and saved one for my lunch tomorrow. I reserved the other two chicken breasts for tomorrow.

Wednesday: I plan to use the Greek seasoned chicken breasts as a topping for salad. I'll make a nice green salad with veggies in it, throw on some Greek chicken, and choose my favorite dressing (I personally think Northern Italian dressing tastes great on almost any salad...my husband prefers Ranch).

Thursday: We'll likely pick up sandwiches or have leftovers because we are going out that night.

Friday: I will boil the chicken sausages for about 30 to 45 minutes. Then I'll throw them on the grill for a few minutes to let them get nice and toasty (I learned this method at cooking class...it cooks the sausages all the way through and cuts down on the grease). I'll put them on steak rolls and top with Rhubarb Chutney. I'll probably grill some vegetables to serve with them.

I cannot wait to try all of these new recipes I'm learning! I'm going to work on incorporating them into weekly meal plans so I can put my "Cooking With a Plan" strategy to work!


  1. What a great idea! I should have taken that course when I was a new bride. I had so much to learn and so little experience in the kitchen. I am proud of you that you are taking the second course too. That Rhubarb cake looks like it would be so delicious. Thank for sharing this.

  2. Hi Ali!
    Thank you for this recipe. My Grandma just gave me a ton of rhubarb from her garden - now I know what I'm going to make. Yum!

  3. I would never have known what to do with rhubarb if I hadn't taken this class...I didn't even know that the leaves were poisonous!