Past Cooking Sessions
Jan 8, 2020
We sure kicked off the new year with a bang up cooking/dinner party.  This new 5 Ingredients adventure makes life simpler and easier in the kitchen with little give away in taste and enjoyment.  So, thanks to all who helped out and enjoyed a wonderful evening. 
Recipes for our three menu items – kale salad, pork pasta and berry dessert -  are listed to the right.  Try at home.  They are easy and geared for 2-4; we just multiplied the quantities for 20 of us.  
Thanks to all for adding $$ to the “Set Up the Cooking Class Kitchen” fund.  Through your generosity – and guilt I assume from having a full three course dinner for $8/person – we added $52 to the fund, for a total of $92 from this and November’s class.  We are only $71 away from solvency! 
Lastly, our additional kitchen needs.  If you have any of the following the good working condition, please get the item[s] to me (bring to the luncheon this Wednesday, meet somewhere, at golf or dine out). We need large, medium and small Stainless steel mixing bowls; Ice cream scoop; Colander; Strainer; Slicing knife; Paring knives (2-3); Pepper grinder; Oven Mitts; Lemon Squeezer Lemon zester; Cheese grater.
Photos from our Evening
Nov 21, 2019
We successfully finished our 2019 Mediterranean Cooking Tour with Lebanese cuisine last Thursday, November 21st.  We prepared and enjoyed Appetizers of Feta Cheese & Lebanese Olives, Hummus and Baba Ghanoush (Roasted Eggplant).   Our salad was Lebanese Tabbouleh.  Then for our main course we prepared Shish Tawook (marinated, grilled chicken pieces) and Rice Pilaf.  Dessert was a Lebanese original – Baklava.  All punctuated with white and red wine! 
Sep 19, 2019
We had a crackerjack of an evening “visiting” Greece on our Mediterranean food journey with 20 adventuresome SIR-souls in September.  We enjoyed Saganaki (grilled halloumi cheese), Greek Salad, Avgolemono (Lemon Chicken Rice Soup), Souvlaki (grilled meat skewers), Tzatziki (yogurt-cucumber sauce), and Baklava (nut, honey in filo dough sheets).  Some said it was the tastiest ever!  Try some – recipes on the website, or visit a Greek restaurant and enjoy for yourself.  Hats off to SIR Ron Knibbs for supplying Retsina (Greek white wine), Ouzo (anise-flavored liqueur) and Greek music.  Thanks, Zorba. Check out the pics of our evening....
The Crew Preparing the Meal
The Final Product
Enjoying the Results
Thanks Again to Ann & John
for a wonderful culinary experience!
Aug 7, 2019
The SIR branch cooking activity group, led by John Noll, hosted 150+ members and guests to a fantastic cookout at the Central Park complex in San Ramon on Wednesday, August 7th from 4 - 7 pm.
The windy conditions did not dampen the enthusiasm and enjoyment of all that attended. The cooking activity teamwork was in full view as they grilled sausages and chicken to perfection.
Accompanying the succulent grilled meats, the group enjoyed pasta and potato salads and, drum roll please, Ann's Famous Beans (OMG - clearly the star of the show! Click on recipe provided to right!).
Many thanks to the crew!
Front L-R: Joe Rivello, Bo Brummett, Bill Chang, Danny Basso, John Noll
Back L-R: Doug Beck, Mike Thelan, Fred Pourmirzaie, Truman Howard, Greg Grebe, Chuck Lipper, Randy Wong
Jul 18, 2019
For July, we all sure enjoyed our “trip” to coastal Croatia.  It was an easy, tasty preparation and outcome.  So much that all of you can enjoy any of these recipes again.  All are listed to the right.  In fact, we are making the Blueberry-Lemon cake again for an upcoming outing with friends.  (Pat Wilson:  you beat those egg whites perfectly to get the “Dairy Queen dip” on top.  Well done!)
If you want to prepare the Octopus salad, I suggest purchasing cooked octopus from Costco or 99 Ranch Market.  It is so much easier and much less chance for error or over/under cooking.  And, do try the whole fish sometime.  Get from Whole Foods or 99 Ranch (you’ll save $$ at 99 Ranch), cover with olive oil, salt & pepper and bake at 400-420° for 20 +/- minutes.  That’s all.  
See our group enjoying the prep and evening’s rewards
The Preparation
The Finished Product!
Serving Up The Feast!
Enjoying Our Classic Croatian Meal!
Another awesome cooking adventure!
Jun 13, 2019
For June, we continued our Mediterranean food trip by enjoying Sicilian cuisine. What a great evening of having a fun time putting a tasty meal together. The Pasta alla Norma turned out really well, with a lot of depth of flavors, topped with fresh pecorino cheese.  A refreshing citrus salad before and cool granita with store-bought cannolis finished off the evening.
Seems the hit of the night were the sautéed mozzarella toasties for appetizers.  Just remember to purchase a quality marinara (like Rao’s, Michael’s of Brooklyn, Amy’s – the extra $$ is well worth it).  
See our group enjoying the prep and evening’s rewards
The Preparation
The Finishing Touches!
Another awesome cooking adventure!
May 16, 2019
For May, we continued our Mediterranean food trip by enjoying Northern Italy cuisine, from Genoa and Liguria. This is where Pesto was invented and where seafood reigns supreme. We fixed a traditional Italian dinner with Antipasti, Primo (pasta), Secondi (Entre) and Dolce (dessert). What an Italian food adventure! I heard comments from several that it was one of our best.  It sure was enjoyable. It might have been tasty, but it was easy to prepare.  So, try these recipes at home with friends. The recipes and pictures of the evening are located below.
A special call out to Janeen Fischer for bringing such tasty appetizers, remembering the focaccia-Liguria connection and capping off the evening with Lemoncello. Thanks, Janeen. 
Panna Cotta With Fresh Strawberry Sauce
See our group enjoying the prep and evening’s rewards
The Preparation
Another awesome cooking adventure!
Apr 18, 2019
C’est Bon! We had a wonderful time enjoying French Provence cooking in last month’s Cooking Activity.  Traditional Bouillabaisse, or French Seafood Stew with LOTS of seafood; Ratatouille, or vegetable dish were the highlights, along with Crudités with Aioli (fresh cut veggies with a Mayo-based dip) and Chocolate Mousse for dessert. 
See our group enjoying the prep and evening’s rewards
The Preparation
Another awesome cooking adventure!
Mar 21, 2019
Our March cooking adventure centered on Spain as we continued our 2019 cooking adventure around the Mediterranean.  We had a grand time fixing traditional Spanish dishes – all easy and quite tasty. Spinach with Chickpeas (Espinacas con Garbonzos), followed by a Fabada (Bean stew with chorizo) and a shrimp dish called Gambas al Ajillo.  We also enjoyed Spanish Flan for dessert. All are easy and simple enough for you to impress your friends with a meal at your house.  Just start chopping onion and garlic early!
Note: no one said it was too spicy (too much heat), but it was spicy in that it had a lot of flavor.  Interesting side note:  Fred pointed out that this is the first Spanish meal he has tasted without tomatoes, a typical staple of Spanish cooking.  We are versatile!  
See the 10 happy SIRs enjoying the prep and evening’s spoils
The Preparation
Another awesome cooking adventure!
Feb 21, 2019
Our February cooking adventure centered on Portugal as we start our 2019 cooking adventure around the Mediterranean.  We prepared a Portuguese Green Soup (Caldo Verde), a creamy green vegetable soup, followed by a Cataplana Seafood Dish, which is a prawn, clam and chorizo simmer preparation – both delicious.  We also enjoyed a Portuguese Salad and Rice Pudding (Arroz Doce) for dessert, topped off with three varieties of Port.  Recipes are easy to make on your own - all located to the right – all keepers in my book – with a few pictures of the evening posted below. Enjoy reliving and recooking the evening.  
The Preparation - Literally TOO MANY COOKS IN THE KITCHEN
Hey what's that?!? Should we tell the others??
The Results
Another awesome cooking adventure!
Jan 17, 2019
I wanted to recap our great evening BRAISING!  Even with a crowded kitchen we were able to pull off another great meal.  A special call out to Truman and Frank for their excellent sous chef duties at the stove – we could not have done it without you.
Turns out the Cod with Linguisa was the evening’s hit for several, only next to the Lemon Bars. From the looks of no leftovers, the Chicken Cacciatore was also well received. Those that took some home may realize that it tasted better the second time around. The flavors had time to mix and develop. Recipes are included as are some great photos of the evening. Poor Ann was also acting as photographer in addition to being there for everything we needed, when we needed it. We’ll have to have a separate photo taker from now on. Another call out to The Best Dressed (John Fischer-Chef’s hat and all), The Wounded Warrior (Chuck Lipper) and Best Apron (Mike Mullineaux - “The GrillFather”), The Best Helper (Ann Noll, without whom it would NOT happen!).
The Preparation
The Results
Another awesome cooking adventure!
Sep 20, 2018
We all sure put together another great meal.  Planning was not exactly perfect as we picked the hottest day in September to roast chicken and veggies in a 400°+ oven!  But I think we all were pleased with the outcome.  In fact, we had little or no leftovers!  
The chicken was a “smashing” success, even without the onions!  All the sauces were gone, so we could have made more.  Veggies and squash were roasted to perfection and devoured completely.  All that was topped off with Apple Crisp and Ice Cream, after the meal with wine and great company.  A thoroughly enjoyable evening.   Where else could you entertain and feed your spouse/significant other for $25!
The Preparation
The Teaching
The Results
Enjoying The Meal
Another awesome cooking adventure!
Aug 16, 2018
Another fun, tasty event on our August 16th class.  And a lot of ooh’s and ahh’s and a “you are not going to mix those ingredients together, are you?”   We did and it turned out great.  Thanks to all  of you for helping making it happen. See the recipes below for everything we prepared, in a reasonable proportion (feeds 4-6, not 20!).  Note in the Aioli prep, we tasted and adjusted.  Do so yourselves.
Please enjoy the pics from Ann’s iPhone....
Jul 12, 2018
We enjoyed a delicious Cook Out evening meal at John & Janeen Fischer’s home in July.  Thank you, John & Janeen, so much for opening your home to 18 hungry food adventurers.  We prepared and enjoyed the now famous Ann’s Baked Bean Casserole, Syracuse Salt Potatoes, NY State Fair Sandwiches (Chicken Italian Sausages smothered in sautéed onions and peppers with a piquant mustard) and for dessert – Grilled Peaches and ice cream.   
What a tasty, easy, enjoyable evening with friends.  Oh, can’t forget the red wines we consumed.  Wonderful evening!
Jun 21, 2018
Everyone had a blast tearing apart Costco’s rotisserie chicken by hand in June’s class. 
Then we made Chicken Soup (really easy) and Chicken Pasta Salad (another easy one), along with sliced rotisserie chicken with sauces.  Easy Greek Salad and Congo Bars for dessert (you’ll have to go on line to learn about that one).
May 24, 2018
Wow!  Did our chicken-seafood Paella ever go over with the crowd!  A beautifully crafted masterpiece we all put together that pleased the eye and the pallet.  
Look at the variety:  Chorizo sausage, chicken breast & thighs, shrimp, clams and mussels with bomba rice! And, I think everyone was able to take some leftovers home.  What a great evening.  

This was one of the rare times dessert did not get the top reactions, although the Spanish version of classic cheese cake was more custard-like, and a lemony delight.  Spanish Salad – that’s the one item we should have made more of.  And a Sherry vinaigrette that really hit the spot!  All recipes listed to the right.  Now try a fun evening with your friends – all you need is a paella pan and a sense of adventure.  


We’ve done a lot of meals to date in Cooking Class, but I think this evening’s meal took honors for the most Ohs and Ahs – color, taste, variety, presentation and over-all enjoyment. Look at all these serious eaters!   



Thanks for a great Spanish food evening. 


Apr 11, 2018
Another tasty, successful evening.  Maybe fava beans are not on the top of your “Hey, I gotta have” list, but when you have them fresh they are wonderful.  Fiddleheads – now you can say you’ve seen and eaten them.  And, dessert – more compliments on that part of dinner than anything.  How can any combination of rhubarb and strawberries be bad!  
The recipes from the evening are listed to the right.  Enjoy when you can.  Also, enjoy some pictures from Ann’s, Wing’s and Dan’s collections.  No recipe for the sausages, just head to Whole Foods or Sprouts for some great chicken sausages. Lots of varieties.  
Look forward to our next get together. 
Mar 15, 2018
Well, we christened our new venue at the Alcosta Senior and Community Center, 9300 Alcosta Blvd (near/across from San Ramon Golf Club) on Thursday, March 15th – our usual 3rd Thursday. Things went very well! Sixteen of us prepared and enjoyed Seafood Risotto - slo–cooked the classical, creamy way – an Asparagus Red Pepper Sauté, Balsamic Vinaigrette, and tasty Berry Crisp for dessert.  Our meal was highlighted by an excellent wine selection by the guests. We have a winner in the new locale, although it is smaller – just makes it more intimate! 
Possibly the biggest question from the evening is how to make risotto with less work.  Here is the secret (from the Book “Risotto Risotti” loosely translated “Lots of Risotto Recipes”):
1.  Use a Pressure Cooker – same ingredients, same process except add 4.5 cups broth vs. 6, cook for 5 minutes under pressure and finish according to the classic recipe.  What could be easier.  Follow pressure cooker precautions.  
2. More Broth at Once – again, everything is the same except adding a full cup of broth at at time instead of 1/2 cup.  Just be sure the stock is hot and the risotto remains at a simmer level.  Same time, less work.  Be careful to not add too much broth or cook too long.  
3. Almost No Stir – Less cooking time, very little stirring.  What could be wrong?  Add all the broth except the last 1/4 cup.  A thin “crust” forms on the bottom of the pan after the broth is added, stirred and cooked.  Do not stir again for 15 minutes.  Then, stir vigorously, breaking up the crust, and add the final ingredients.  Also, you can add other flavorings/veggies/seafood/etc. at this point.  Warm and serve immediately.  
If anyone tries one of these methods (obviously, preferable to 20 minutes of continuous stirring), let me know how it turns out.  You are sacrificing an incremental amount of tasty goodness by shortcuts, but to many/most it would not make a difference.  Any method to cook at home will beat a restaurant’s method of cooking half way, stopping the process and starting up again.  
Check out the photos from this session....
Creating the Meal!
Enjoying The Food!
Jan 23, 2018
As a result of this session, all attendees are now ready for The Big Game!  Another fun evening where all enjoyed themselves preparing and enjoying great dishes to make that Super Bow bash even more memorable than the game.  John and Ann successfully instructed all on a number of simple recipes for your party.  What could be easier than Sausage Cheese Balls or Clam Salsa.  Each with just three ingredients.  And, the nice thing about the Chili and Sausage Bean Soup is that it can sit on the stove until the game catches up to you. Everything can be (and should) prepared ahead of time to enjoy yourself with your guests.
Check out the photos from this session....
The Group
The Food
Enjoying The Food
Oct 1, 2017
Again, we sure had a good time Thursday evening cooking our Italian meal. Thanks for all your help and a special call out to Randy and Lorna Wong for their cooking skills and clean up work.  Much appreciated by all.  And also to John Bevilacqua for his wonderful focaccia.  
To the right are the recipes for the Bruschetta, Focaccia, Bolognese Ragu, and Roasted Zucchini. Sorry, but the ‘recipe’ for cannoli is to go to Lunardi’s!  
Please note in cooking the ragu, you do not have to stand over the stove and stir.  It is meant to be on a low simmer with an occasional stir.  We had it on High to cook it down quicker so we could eat at a reasonable time.   So, we had to keep stirring to keep it from sticking.  
Here are some pics from the evening.  Lots of smiling, happy faces – just what we all love.
Feb 9, 2017
September’s class was supposed to be quick, easy dinners.  And it was!  We prepared Grilled Chicken Breast, microwave broccoli and pasta with Basil Pesto Sauce.    Also, we prepared Spinach & Cheese Ravoli with Pesto.  All ingredients from Costco.  All prepared in minutes.  Also, made a Caesar salad with all the fixin’s.  Easy, fun night with great people and good wine! 
Aug 17, 2017
Another great evening of cooking, enjoying food and spending a great time together.  I’ve heard a lot of positive feedback, especially on the Tuna.  And, thanks Wing for the excellent sashimi – wasabi sauce.  Jim Quon – thanks for sharing your soy sauce.  
I want to share the recipes with you, although they all were quite simple.  There is no recipe for the Grilled Peaches.  Do nothing more than cut in half (cut around the seed and twist), put on a hot grill.  After 3-4 minutes turn and leave on till you see a bubble or two.  Serve with ice cream and/or birthday cake!  
Everyone sure seems to enjoy themselves. Here are pics of the night of the group in action! 
Jul 13, 2017
What a great time we all had at this sesson.  Sixteen were there all with wide smiles and full tummies. Everyone pitched in:  chopping and cutting, pitting and slicing, stirring and deglazing, mixing and enjoying.   Recipes for all our efforts are posted to the right for your future use.  
A special call out to Ann for her terrific Bean Casserole.  Not a bit of leftovers there and I think I caught one SIR licking the pans!  And most of you took something home – didn’t that gazpacho taste even better the second or third day? 
I want especially thank the clean up crew, headed by Randy and Lorna Wong.  Thanks for your efforts and especially the results.  They may have us back another time!
Check out the pictures of our evening.  Lots of smiling faces.  
Thanks all.  Looking forward to our next adventure.
Jun 14, 2017
We had a great time at the SIRs Berkeley Bowl outing with 34 SIRs and spouses in attendance.  John Noll provided some interesting facts about “The Bowl” and led a discussion of the Grocery Industry and the psychology of grocery shopping.  Lots of good questions.
FYI about The Bowl:
  • The name comes from its original location – a former bowling alley
  • Over 45,000 customers shop the two locations weekly
  • Open exclusively for restaurants and chefs 8:00-9:00 daily
  • Produce is over 30% of the stores sales – over $1.0 million weekly!
  • The variety is unbelievable – 27 mushrooms, 10+ melons, 5-6 papayas, innumerable apples, peaches, pear and fruit varieties. 
  • Seafood & Meat Counter – over 20 varieties of FRESH fish. 
  • 300 types of cheeses
  • Over 600 beers and wines
  • 55,000+ different items in the store – typical stores carry 40,000+
Most everyone bought some items to enjoy at home.  Everyone enjoyed a Berkeley Bowl prepared box lunch with the crowd favorite chocolate cookie!
Feb 9, 2017
Another great evening!  Thanks to all for joining in to create a memorable dinner and event. Good friends, good food & wine and a great evening.
We learned....
1- How to Prepare Salmon Fillets
2- Deglaze sauté pan for sauce – use pan juices
3- Vinaigrette preparation
4- Easy, flavorful rice preparation
5- Preparation and Use of leeks and chard
6- Familiarity with Leeks, Chard, reduced pan juices for sauce
7- Using simple things to create interesting meals
Please try the recipes from this evening, with adjustments made to correct the Berry Cobbler dough preparation.  Hey, we went with the flow, corrected mid-stream and the dessert turned out just right.   A special call-out to our host, Chris Koby, without whom we could not have this event.   Thanks so much, Chris.  
Mar 23, 2017
The group had a good time sharing the joy of preparing and eating good food.  In this session we talked about the venerable skinless, boneless chicken breast and learned how to make and enjoy:  Chicken Piccata, Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and Sicilian Broccoli.  Salad – Arugula with Fennel.  Dessert – Chocolate Lava Cake (courtesy of Phil Sargent.) Not bad for under $10.
Feb 9, 2017
Activity leader, John Noll, assisted by his wife, Ann, did a great job providing information on proper knife skills.  The group learned about knives and cutting. The entire group appeared to benefit from his demonstrations and instruction.
This was a 'hands-on' session.  All had knives and cutting boards and John passed out the ingredients for the dishes we were to cook and consume at the end of the session.  This allowed all to gain some experience in the cutting techniques demonstrated by John.  We made Minestrone Soup, Chopped Salad and two desserts.