Cooking with Myra: Cooking class results in good recipes

June 1, 2010 at 1:01 a.m.

Pork and Tomatillo Quesadillas with Ancho Dipping Salsa

Pork and Tomatillo Quesadillas with Ancho Dipping Salsa

By Myra Starkey

I've been losing weight for the last few months. I think I've dropped about 10 or 15 pounds. I don't feel sick.

It's probably because of my daughter's upcoming wedding. There is lots of stress getting everything organized to create the perfect event.

Thank heavens I have some really talented friends who are helping out.

Another factor is that as the mother of the bride, I bought a new special dress for the wedding, and it was a little snug, but I didn't want to buy a bigger size. I made up my mind to shed some of those middle-age pounds.

I'm still eating breakfast and lunch. I've just mostly cut down on snacks and my evening calories.

I realize that skinny is relative. I went for a doctor check-up a few weeks ago, and he complimented me for losing some weight, but then told me it wouldn't hurt to lose another 10 pounds.

I told him that I would look too old, and that I need to keep my weight up in order to fill out my wrinkles.

Besides, there are so many new foods to try.

One of my friends came over the other night, and I introduced her to the new ice cream bars from Blue Bell. I discovered these at the grocery store when I saw several people lining up in front of the freezer door on the ice cream aisle.

Not wanting to miss something delicious, I queried a petite lady who informed me she was buying a chocolate chip mint ice cream bar with dark chocolate coating. Yum.

I snagged a box and brought them home. I admit that I had two in the car on the way, but I did skip supper since my calorie quota had already been met. I am looking younger with every bite.

My friend exclaimed that the ice cream was delicious, but she just wanted a bite.

That attitude is the difference in at least 10 extra pounds. I never miss an opportunity to eat something new, not just one bite but rather the entire slice, scoop or however the food is served.

My motto is that I never met a food I didn't like. Well, actually, I don't like escargot because I've encountered way too many of their relatives in my garden.

My friend, Jerra, called to ask if I wanted to attend a cooking class in Cuero at the Cooking Depot.

Rebecca Rather would be there talking about her new cookbook, "Pastry Queen Parties."

I quickly agreed to join her and some other foodie friends for an evening with Rebecca. I have eaten at her Rather Sweet Bakery in Fredericksburg on numerous occasions and have enjoyed every crumb, so seeing her in person, and eating at her table, would be extra special.

I actually met Rebecca many years ago at a Habitat for Humanity fundraiser. I contacted several chefs to come prepare a meal and give a cooking lesson. Rebecca was one of the chefs. She was working on her first cookbook. I volunteered to be her assistant on the stage.

Before the event, she had injected strawberries with a liqueur, and I believe I may have had one too many not realizing they packed a punch.

Thankfully, she did not remember me when I met her again in Cuero.

Annette, who owns the Cooking Depot, where they hold these classes, is a tireless worker. She frequently invites chefs to teach in her shop. She has a spacious room set up for classes, which has a cooking station with an overhead angled mirror so the students can watch all the action.

She and her staff prepare the same recipes before the class, so the students can eat the dish that the instructor chef is preparing.

I enjoy the first moments of the class when the expectant students look toward the teacher with sparkles in their eyes and growling stomachs.

Everyone knows what will be prepared because set at each place is a packet of recipes. I flip through those pages imagining the taste of the spices and the smells of the aromas before we even start.

I frequently make notes in the side margins hoping to glean tips from the master.

The classroom is also part of the shop, so it is lined with hanging cooking utensils of every kind, such as colorful spatulas and whisks, shiny tongs and cheese graters. The shop is a cook's dream.

The class was every bit as good as I expected. Rebecca took us through each dish step-by-step, answering our questions with a patient smile.

Our group was slightly rowdy since we are frequently together and have a lot of cooking memories to joke about. We rode to the class together in the party bus that belongs to one of the ladies in our group. Everyone likes the bus . well, almost everyone. I tend to get motion sickness, so I have to sit next to Sedrick, the driver, and look straight ahead.

I was feeling slightly woozy when I arrived at the class, but those feelings passed as I took my seat and imagined all the good things I would be eating.

Rebecca started with double cheese slice-and-bake crackers, which can be frozen and baked later. The sharp cheesy crunch was a perfect start to our meal.

Next, she prepared a Rosa's Red Posole, which is a soup made with hominy, several kinds of chili peppers and pork butt.

Quesadillas made from pork butt were our entree, and the dipping sauce served on the side brought oohs and aahs from our table.

Many of the components of this dish can be made ahead and then assembled at the last minute.

Then she showed us how to make Chubby's White Pralines. The recipe is unique since the confections are made with white sugar instead of brown.

Rebecca finished with Key Lime Coconut Cream Cake.

The frosting is made from whipping cream, powdered sugar and sprinkled with toasted coconut.

One might think that in a large cooking class you might get only a taste of each recipe and leave hungry. That was not the case that evening with Rather. The Pastry Queen manages to keep a trim figure by not eating sweets, but she lavished her students with mouth-watering appetizers, entrees and several desserts.

The bus ride back was filled with laughter. I sat near the driver and kept my eye on the road, promising myself I would never eat that much again.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or e-mail



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