No bake Cheesecake with raspberry sauce
Beef and bean chili

Vegetable quesadillas with cheese

Linda Johnson

I was fortunate to meet Linda Johnson at the Azle Farmer’s Market this summer. She picked up one of my brochures and called me inquiring about private cooking lessons. She has been treated for a condition which required chemotherapy. During the course of her treatment she attended a nutrition class where she became much more aware of the role of food in health and the concept of nutrition as medication. She was ready to start making changes but didn’t really know where to start so lessons were the answer for her. While Linda has always cooked she admitted she is stuck in a rut typically making casseroles and high fat dishes. She does not eat many fresh vegetables or fish, nor does she usually cook with many spices or herbs. Linda was completely open to trying new things and is very easy going, making her a pleasure to work with.
Our first class was on September 25. We made seared chicken breasts with Dijon sauce, stir-fried chicken and vegetables, and Indian shrimp. I gave her master recipes for various types of light pan sauces for the seared chicken and showed her how to sear the chicken breast over high heat, not crowding the pan, and cook it until it was done but not “cooked to death” like most of us tend to cook chicken.
We used a variety of thinly cut vegetables for the stir-fry along with some fresh ginger and garlic and a light sauce with low sodium chicken broth and soy sauce. Lastly we made an Indian shrimp and vegetable dish.
She really enjoyed the seared chicken breasts and has since made many versions of it. I believe she has also made the stir-fried meat and vegetables again. I don’t think the Indian shrimp was a big hit. I was happy to hear that her husband, Baker, who usually didn’t eat bell peppers, was able to enjoy the stir-fry. She was anxious for the next class.
Our second class was on November 6. Linda had read a blog entry I posted on the taco party I had for friends and asked if we could do a class on chili with various toppings. She asked that her classes contain appetizer, entree, and dessert dishes. Our menu for the class was:
Appetizer: Open-faced vegetable quesadillas
Entree: Beef chili with toppings
Green chile cheese cornbread
Dessert: No Bake Cheesecake with berries

For the appetizer we sauteed onions, mushrooms, and poblano peppers. We took some whole wheat tortillas and placed them on a cookie sheet, sprinkled some goat cheese and Monterey Jack cheese on them along with the vegetables and cooked them for about 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven. We topped with with a little chopped cilantro and cut them into wedges.

The chile was a simple beef and bean chili spiced up with some chipotle chiles, poblano peppers and good ancho chile powder. We used 2 pounds of lean ground beef and 4 cups of beans, added liquid and some roux to keep the chili from being so heavy with meat. We topped it with shredded cheese, sour cream, crumbled corn chips, and a little cilantro. I explained to Linda that while I might put out a lot of toppings for the crowd such as different cheeses, chips, sour cream, diced onion, limes, cilantro, etc., I personally will put just a taste of the chips and cheese on my chili along with the onions and cilantro. Linda called for Baker to come in and sample the finished chili and he declared it to be tasty. I heard later that they happily finished the whole batch and it improved with age.
We made green chile cheese cornbread with goat cheese (see blog entry from Azle Farmers Market with this recipe). Linda had not ever tried goat cheese before and she said she liked it.

We made the dessert first so it would have time to chill.
Basically we took a typical graham cracker crust but with less butter and sugar, made the cheesecake with cream cheese and sugar and 1 vanilla bean. Linda had never used vanilla bean before. I’ll admit it’s a little pricey, but in this recipe it really stood out. We added some fresh lemon juice and a little cream. We put the crumbs in the bottom of a ring mold, added the cheesecake filling and chilled it. After we removed it from the mold we placed some fresh raspberries which had been made into a sauce on top. This was a refreshing dessert after the spicy chili. I showed Linda that the dessert could be made in large or small glasses as well.

By the end the kitchen was full of great smelling food, a large pot of chili to enjoy later, cheesecake parfaits in the fridge, and cornbread and quesadillas. I went home and cooked a quick dinner for my family but I kept thinking about the delicious food at Linda’s and when I would make my own chili dinner.