Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Cooking Class + White Bean Dip

Last night I attended my first-ever cooking class. A friend of our family, Maureen teaches a weekly workshop on healthy eating, and I finally got a chance to check it out. Last night's theme was "creative brown bag lunches," and since I'm heading back to work next month, I thought this would be a great one to attend.

Maureen made several sandwiches for us to sample using homemade spreads and salad dressings. I've had all these foods before, but what I really liked was Maureen's approach for making healthy versions at home and using them in creative ways.

Pita pocket stuffed with Greek salad, feta cheese and homemade hummus
For example, I never thought to use white bean dip as a sandwich spread (great tip for mayo haters!), or red pepper pesto after grilling. This white bean dip, avocado and roasted red pepper sandwich was delicious - I'll definitely be making it for lunches!

White bean dip, avocados, spinach and roasted red peppers on Sandwich Thin

Maureen also had some good tips for the class:
  • Try making your own hummus! It's cheaper to make at home, and you can control the oil content by using some of the liquid from the can of chic peas. You can also add any flavors you like.
  • Don't be scared of dried beans. All you need to do is throw them in a crockpot overnight or simmer them on the stove while you're doing other things, and you'll have fresh beans to use for the week. I liked this tip because dry beans always intimidate me for some reason; some studies recommend minimizing your use of canned goods because toxins can leach into the food, so I'll definitely be trying this!
  • Make your own salad dressing! Many bottled dressings have a lot of artificial ingredients, but homemade dressings are often cheaper and healthier - and so easy to make! She recommended using Dijon mustard as an emulsifying ingredient, which I often do; it makes dressings creamy and thick without the need for a lot of oil.
  • Buy organic red peppers. Red peppers are on the Dirty Dozen list for being heavily sprayed with pesticides (mainly because they have to remain on the vine for so long to turn red), so try to buy them organic. I can't always find organic peppers, so I wash mine with a pesticide produce wash before eating them. 
Roasted red pepper and walnut pesto with organic spinach on whole wheat pita
I don't want to share all the recipes we received out of respect Maureen and those who paid for the class, but here is a sample one. Her white bean dip is so flavorful and versatile, but simple to make at home. Try it!

If you're local and interested in checking out Maureen's class, more info can be found here.

Maureen's White Bean Dip

2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp. dried, crushed rosemary (crushing it releases its scent and essential oils)
Pinch red pepper flakes
1 15 oz. can cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
Veggies and pita chips or bread crisps for dipping

Cook garlic in olive oil over medium heat until golden, about 2 minutes. Remove skillet from heat, stir in rosemary and red pepper flakes.

Put beans and salt into food processor and process until smooth. Scrape mixture into serving bowl. Drizzle with reserved rosemary olive oil. Serve with veggies and crisps, or use as a sandwich spread.


  1. Jess...#1 fan (haha!)March 14, 2012 at 3:50 PM

    definitely going to try out these cooking classes! that sammie sounds awesome! my mom and i signed up for a cooking class that is being held at my (& matt's) high school. its every monday in march and features chefs from local restaurants. we haven't learned too much, but it's still interesting. thanks for the tip!

    1. ps...where do you buy your produce wash?

    2. Hi Jess,
      It's Maureen teacher of the cooking classes. I did the same demo from CRHS last year.( you must know my son, Matt Price from 2000) Please come to one of my classes some time. In May, I will be moving to my warm weather home at Silverton Organic Farms in Toms River. You can sample the foods from class, and buy organic produce to make these recipes right there. Totally local! As far as the produce wash, you don't actually need to buy the commercial stuff. A simple washing with mild dish liquid is all you need (be sure to rinse thoroughly, no one like soapy taste!) I wash all my produce. You can buy produce wash at any grocery store in the produce isle if you chose to.

    3. Haha Jess, you're too cute! I'd love to go to a cooking class with you sometime! As far as the produce wash, as Maureen said you can just use dish soap, but I buy Environne in the produce section at ShopRite. It's been proven to remove 99% of pesticides and waxes, so I like to use it just to be on the safe side. I'm sure either way would work fine.

    4. @maureen - yes i do know matt! i graduated in '01. what a small world :) i'll definitely be coming to your classes! that's awesome you do them at silverton farms...i love it there! i look forward to meeting you! btw..what did you think of the classes at CRHS?

      thanks for the produce washing tips ladies!

  2. I am so trying this bean dip! Yummy!

  3. Another tip I learned is to wash (soak) your fresh berries and fruits in water with 1/10th lemon juice to naturally kill off any bacteria or mold spores starting to grow, and it preserves them longer.

    1. Yay - thanks for the tip!

  4. Maureen's classes are terrific. One of the best tips that I've learned from attending Maureen's Cookshop class over the past year is the switching out of ingredients for healthier choices in every day cooking. The new recipes can't be beat!

    Sue C