I have never been much of a cook. I have a few specialties that I learned how to make over the years, like meatloaf and blueberry muffins and chocolate chip cookies. I have perfected bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese as my go-to appetizer for any social function that requires me to bring something and I eagerly break out the cookie recipes for Christmas baking.
But I don’t experiment with recipes, I know nothing about what spices work together and I never even bought a cookbook until I was diagnosed as gluten-intolerant and figured I needed to learn to cook since I had to give up microwave dinners and couldn’t eat out as easily as I once did. But even then, I stuck to the simplest of recipes, trying to cook a large batch of something on Sunday evenings to last me through the week. Now, in my temporary apartment, I don’t even have a real oven or a full gas stove – just an electric stove top with two burners and a convection oven/microwave. As a result, my cooking attempts have deteriorated even further.
So when the opportunity arose to take a cooking class as part of my Eventbrite blogger tour, I couldn’t pass it up. Amanda Skrip’s class was titled “World Flavors: Fresh & Simple Globally Inspired Recipes” and was promoted to be entirely gluten free. Bonus! But even more than that, I liked the word “simple.” For me, simple is the best kind of cooking.
The class was held at the Whole Foods on Halsted and was nice and small – just five students. I clearly was behind the rest of the pack when it came to cooking knowledge and experience, but that was okay. Amanda did her best to put me at ease. After a short introduction, she set to work on the first dish: Creamy Black Beans. These would simmer and cook for about 45 minutes as she walked us through my most anticipated dish: Sweet Potato Lettuce Wraps.
As she prepped everything, Amanda happily answered the many questions from the class and explained the virtues of various ingredients – i.e. , why cooking with coconut oil rocks. She also introduced us to brown rice tortillas, which will easily become my new favorite tortilla replacement – they really taste better than even wheat tortillas in my opinion.
Soon, the Creamy Black Beans were ready and Amanda passed them around in small cups for us to try. Not being a fan of either black beans or onions, I quietly pushed mine to the side after trying a few nibbles of the beans to be polite.
As the sweet potatoes continued to roast in the oven, Amanda started in on the main dish: Indian Spiced Chicken with Spinach. She gave a short primer on spices as she added ginger, cumin, coriander, turmeric and paprika to a large pan already sizzling with onions, tomatoes and peppers. Then, she got going on the salad – a kale salad with mango, red onion and pepitas. It was truly an impressive feat in time management as she balanced so many aspects of the meal simultaneously.
Finally, the much-awaited Sweet Potato Lettuce Wraps were ready. The sweet potatoes had been roasted in coconut oil and chile powder and then added to large lettuce leaves with a handful of julienned vegetables and a spoonful of a tangy peanut sauce. To say these were to die for would be an understatement. I probably could have eaten them all night long. Yum. Yum. Yum.
After the wraps, the Indian Spiced Chicken was a bit of a letdown. It wasn’t bad, but it didn’t wow as much as the wraps. It was also just a bit bland – and coming from a Minnesota girl who shies away from anything super spicy, that is saying a lot.
All in all, it was an interesting evening and I came away with at least one recipe that I will definitely be trying in the future! I will also be adding coconut oil and rice tortillas to my next shopping list. My only complaint? I wish it had been a hands-on class instead of just a demonstration. Even though we got to take the recipes with us, I think I would have retained more about the actual preparation if I had done it myself.
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Amanda Skrip offers many gluten-free cooking classes, so if you’re in Chicago and gluten-free, I highly recommend you check them out!