Last Tuesday, KISS-FM presented the Taste of Home Cooking School at Grace Gardens. The event promised samples, a gift bag, cooking demonstrations, and chances to win prizes. Taste of Home publishes four magazines along with special interest recipe collections and cookbooks. The publications focus on offering authentic, family-favorite recipes from home cooks. Honestly, I’ve never been a fan of the publication because I’m a food snob. Some of their recipes sound gross to me, and they seem a little too casserole happy. I knew that this wouldn’t be a veg friendly event, but I went anyway because I love food, love to learn, wanted the gift bag, was curious, and wanted to blog about it. So, here is my vegetarian food snob perspective of the event.
As I mentioned above, the event took place at Grace Gardens. This is a gorgeous venue situated on 10 acres of land on the far westside amid farmland. We received our bags upon arrival and then visited booths, which were located outside in a tented area. At first it was pretty exciting, but then we realized that there weren’t many booths after all and many were disappointing. The booths were all local businesses and organizations. Our first stop was the Junior League of El Paso where we sampled jalapeno jelly with cream cheese on a cracker, and chile seasoned popcorn. I didn’t like the jelly, but the seasoning was good. It was just weird to taste jalapeno and sweetness in jelly form. They were also selling cookbooks.
I was pleasantly surprised that most of the samples were veggie friendly. Even Quintero’s Meat Company had more than just meat. They had chile rellenos, but I didn’t like them, although I am biased because I’ve never liked the egg-y taste of the batter. Sierra-Providence had the worst tasting samples. Their sugar free cupcakes were beautiful, but dry and the frosting tasted like Cool Whip. The creamy vegetable dip was light pink and really funky tasting. I couldn’t identify any of the ingredients except for maybe pureed red bell pepper and broccoli. The hummus tasted like they used sesame oil instead of tahini (sesame seed paste), and the pita bread was dry and chewy. Costco had their dark chocolate covered pomegranates that taste similar to dried cranberries, and are so addicting.
Cupcake samples seemed to dominate the booths. Nicole Rose Cupcakes was sampling red velvet and pumpkin cupcakes. The red velvet ones were surprisingly dry, but the frosting was really good. The pumpkin ones were fair, but I’ve had better. Elite Events had the best tasting samples with adorable tiny Italian Cupcakes and chocolate dipped cake truffles. Other booths not mentioned were Tupperware, Westend Hair Company & Day Spa, Pampered Chef, Azar Nut Company, and others I don’t recall.
I wasn’t aware that you could get to the event anytime between 3:30 and 7:00 pm, so we arrived at 3:45. After circling the booths twice, we were bored to tears. Fortunately, we live nearby, so we went home for a bit and returned in time for the demonstration at 7 pm. Monika from KISS-FM emceed while Cooking School teacher, Jamie Dunn presented. It took them awhile to get started due to mic difficulties. When it finally began, I felt like I was in an infomercial. The presenter tried to be funny and get the crowd excited. We of course always have the luck of sitting near the obnoxious people who like to comment, clap, and laugh at everything very loudly. None of the recipes appealed to me, but some of the tips she shared were really helpful. The recipes that she demonstrated were Upside Down Banana French Toast, Gingered Carrot Soup, Bacon-Cheddar-Chive Scones, Buffalo Chex Mix, Cornbread Stuffed Turkey Breast, Sausage Stuffed Red Bell Peppers, Cookie Dough Truffles, Chicken Balsamico, Apricot Beef Stir Fry, and French Cranberry Apple Pie. Throughout the demonstration, they raffled away various gift baskets, cookbooks, serving ware, and the dishes that Jamie had prepared in nice serving platters. They raffled away so many items and we of course won nothing! The event was so long (it ended at 10 pm!) and the chairs were so uncomfortable.
If the Cooking School returns next year, I will most likely attend again in the hopes that I win something. I might even give Taste of Home publications a second chance, since everyone did receive a free subscription to the magazine. The website also contains vegetarian recipes. Remember that you can always alter recipes to fit you dietary and persnickety needs! You can also get the Kitchen Basics recipe booklet for free at their website. They also make a vegetable stock and roasted vegetable stock. The site says the veggie stock is available at Super Target (eastside).
- Store plastic wrap in the freezer to keep it from sticking to itself.
- Break off the middle tines of a plastic fork, leaving the 2 outer tines intact to make a candy dipper.
- Splash lemon lime soda over apples instead of lemon to keep from oxidizing and tasting too acidic.
- Red bell peppers with 3 bumps on the bottom are sweeter than those with 4 bumps.
- Scooping flour into a measuring cup rather than using the measuring cup to scoop up the flour will give you a more accurate measure. Measure flour over a paper towel so you can pour it back into the container.
- Use a spoon to peel fresh ginger (Favorite tip! It works really well!).
Click pictures to enlarge.