Classes for the rest of 2012!

Here it is, the class list for the rest of 2012!!  Scroll down to the bottom and follow the links to register.  I don’t manage the registration, so you will need to follow the directions on those websites if you have any questions.


Speciality Fruit Canning

Jam is a great introduction to canning; all the basics you learn in this class will open up the world of canning to you. It is a yummy treat, a great gift, and a wonderful way to extend the flavor of summer fruit. We will make 2 different jams, one sugar free; storing, cute gift ideas will be discussed. Flavor choices and combinations will be discussed. Students will leave with their homemade jam and recipes.


$30.00 Resident  • $36.00 Non-resident

Barcode: 27574

 Oct 19 Friday 7:00 pm–9:00 pm


Let’s BBQ!

BBQ may seem like a summer thing, but in California we can BBQ all year round! This hands-on class will teach you about rubs for meat and poultry, and veggie prep. We will BBQ our whole meal—not just the meat! We will also go over how to BBQ a turkey, a wonderful change for Thanksgiving. Class will end with us eating our wonderful BBQ lunch!

Consider taking this class with your teen or favorite cook’s helper.


$35 Resident .  $42 Non Resident

Activity #30019

November 10 Saturday  9:30 AM-12:30 PM


Easy Veggie Side dishes

We all know we should eat more veggies, but need to make it flavorful and easy!  Do ahead, or at least prep-ahead, makes weeknight and family gatherings go so much smoother.  We will make 3 veggie dishes – including roasted veggies, and the use of herbs –  This is hands on class, you will cook, taste and go home with recipes to fix again and again.



November 14,Wednesday  7-9pm


Registration info

Dublin: or 925-556-4500

Danville: or (925) 314-3400

Livermore: or (925) 373-5700 Continue reading


“A Night on the Town” World Tour eddition

What to do?

A friend’s birthday is just days away and you have no ideas for a gift or an event….  When we were younger it seemed like we needed everything and could afford nothing!  Now the things we need are  $$$$ and still we can afford little.  What to do!?

Dinner with a coupon, affordable but not that interesting….Hmm, what about bar hopping? Was fun in my 20’s but that was 30 years ago, but now bars seem expensive, loud and the worry of a DUI real.  Maybe a combination of the two – what about appetizer hopping???   The appetizer part of the menu is usually a good deal if you can stay away from the drinks (your wallet and head will thank you).  You can easily split 3 or 4 spots of appetizers and finish with dessert!

Next question is where?  Plenty of chain restaurants have a large selection of appetizers, but that is not very original, and as a small business owner I want to support the “little” guy.  This weekend, a girlfriend and I set out to appetizer hop around town.  Our goals were to stay on budget, taste a little bit of everything and have fun. We started at Hopyard Brewery (American food) we had a soup, then to Prickly Pear (Mexican food) we had chimichanga with cream cheese and jalapeno – very yummy and one order of Chimichanga’s has 5 small chimies.   Next stop Uncle Yu’s for a salad with honey walnut prawns! Amazing!!!  At this point we were full, so we skipped our last stop and went direct to Esin for dessert.  A fig cake my friend loves and super chocolaty espresso tart which I liked finished off our evening.   I wish the chocolate was less intense so I could have tasted the coffee, but I would go back for their Snow Clouds.  What are snow clouds you ask?  They are an amazing drink which that had whiskey, milk and other yummies, and was so good, I really didn’t need dessert.  It was a really fun different evening, and we did not over eat, over drink or over spend the budget!


Mission accomplished!!!

Operation: Homemade Blizzard

Blogging….. I would love to do this more, but just don’t.  I really need to figure out a way to make it a habit.

HEAT… it has been hecka hot in the East Bay area of the San Francisco Bay, at or close to 100 degrees for 3 days and my little house has no air conditioning, and limited insulation.  A whole different blog post about why I have not changed that situation, but the short version is $$$, the end.

But today I had a client come by and when she walked in from the 90 degree outside into the 73 degree house, she commented on how nice it was to have the air conditioning on, as her hubby did not like the bills.  So I told her, no air conditioning. She could not believe it. Figured I had to share how to do it.

You cannot do it if you are not detail oriented (that’s the politically correct way to say “a bit of an anal control freak!”) .

The first thing is to stop adding heat to your house – so  look over each room in your home and figure out what you have that generates heat and try to eliminate or control it.  That means incandescent lights – out!  Take a look at your TV and feel the back of it – it is hot, it is hotter when on, but it is even hot when off –  get a power strip –plug in the TV and the DVD player, turn off the power strip when you are not using it.   The same goes for the printer, computer, game system you get it if there is a little power light, feel it – warm then unplug it.

Ok now you need to get the house as cool as you can – the coolest time is at night, so when the air outside is cool get it inside!  Open windows and doors, including the garage door (even if it is a little bit) to let the cool air in.  This works great when you are awake in the evening, but  it will get late and you will want to lock up to go to bed.  Living Gourmet does not recommend leaving your house insecure in a effort to keep it cool, so what I did is close all the windows except one at each end of the house. In one window place a large commercial fan (I got a table top one at Home Depot a few years ago it is about 24 inches across) place it so it is blowing out. Turn it on to high. Close and lock every other window and door except the one at the other end of the house.  Leave that one open.  For me, this means that one window is in the kitchen and the other is the master bed room. The fan will pull air in from the open window, through the house and blow it out.  I can knock 10 degrees off the inside temperature in 6-7 hours, and the fan costs very little to run.

When you wake up, you’ll find yourself in a cool house.  If you are like me and get up early, open everything back up!  You can generally drop the temperature a few more degrees in the morning and every little bit helps.  As the sun comes up and begins to shine in the windows close the blinds/shades/drapes.  Do NOT let the sun in!!  When the outside temp is the same as the inside temp shut the windows and doors. Open drapes as the sun is no longer shinning in the windows, you’ll change which window covers are closed as the sun moves.  The other trick is to not go in and out too much. Every time you open the door you are letting out cool air and letting in hot air.  During the day, try not to generate heat.  Don’t make a batch of cookies at 3 in the afternoon or turn the oven on.  You would be supprised how much ‘baking’ you can do on a barbeque.  I can keep a 20-30 degree temperature difference between the inside and outside of my house and this is with all the crummy insulation in my house.  I do have insulated doors, and double pane windows, but no wall insulation and the roof is r13.  Most newer homes will have so much more insulating potential, that you should easily be able to do what I do.


The other upside is all the money you save by leaving the air conditioner off. And really, who doesn’t like more money?



Tales of the Taco: vol.1

Soul searching is a very complex task that is often boiled down to “Only you can do this for you”.  The journey takes many forms and no two experiences are the same.  Some find life’s meaning through meditation, others through exercise.  Here at Living Gourmet, we recently went on a soul searching experience and have done our best to record our findings below.  Taking some advice from these guys our particular method of divination was an exploration of the taco.  These are not your average Taco Bell tacos, or even the elusive left-over Taco Bell taco(because really, if they don’t get eaten the first time, who is going to keep it around to let it age).  These are your true authentic tacos that we liberated from some local taquerias.

We visited two places on our journey, Rancho Grande in Pleasanton, CA  and Taco Azteca in Dublin, CA

Rancho Grande is you stereotypical taqueria: the menu is in two languages and the pictures have Spanish captions, Radio Español is blaring over the old speakers and they serve more flavors of Fanta than Coke.  It also passes the Living Gourmet Litmus test for Cultural Foods; if the people whose culture the food comes from eat there, you know it is good.  Based on looks alone, this place should serve good food.  The Living Gourmet Executive Staff (one of who you know, the other is hiding in the shadows, secretly controlling the operations MUWHAHAHAHAAHA) ordered two tacos here: the grilled chicken taco and the BBQ pork taco.  For the record, each of these has a Spanish name, although neither of us wanted to butcher the language by attempting them.  At $1.85 a piece, we weren’t quite sure what we were going to get.  This falls into the grey area in taco pricing where it isn’t obvious if you are going to get a low price on a good taco or an overpriced wanna-be taco.  Fortunately, we got the former.  Both tacos were delicious and came with a hidden, but very tasty surprise.  In the tacos, there were grilled onions which went very nicely with meal.

In addition to the tacos, the remainder of the meal was good.  Chips are complimentary if you spent more than $5, so if you bring a friend they are free.  While we only had one each, if would be very easy for one moderately hungry person to eat three of these tasty snacks.  While it was no Pleasanton Hotel, there was a certain charm to the place.  It had just enough grime to feel right.  We both gave it 3 out of 5 stars in terms of an overall experience.

Next, we wanted to try a different kind of taco experience.  We wanted a place a little more, shall we say, experimental in their approach to tacos.  We decided on Taco Azteca, which traded in the Spanish music for one of the best decorated Mexican restaurants I’ve ever been in.  In lieu of scientific consistency, we ordered the Chili Colorado taco and the Carnitas taco.  With two tacos and a drink coming in at just over $8, we were expecting something special.  Chips and salsa were free, which was nice, at the restaurant itself was spectacular, but the tacos were found wanting.  The Chili Colorado drowned out the beef flavor leaving us with a slightly disappointed and reaching for our drinks.  The carnitas was boring.  Not bad, but it just lacked in the something special that made you want to take that next bite, nothing justified the jump in price.  We decided that they would only get 2 stars out of 5.

Before you decide to hunt us down and correct our erroneous conclusions, hear us out.  We spent a single afternoon going to these two places, trying a grand total of 4 tacos, two sodas, a basket of chips and some napkins.  You could go into either restaurant and order something different on the menu for a month and still not have tried everything.  What I’m trying to say is the easiest way to find a hidden gem of a Mexican restaurant it to go out and try a bunch. You will find your favorite little hole in the wall and the place that does them just right.

But neither of us think we have found our favorite little hole in the wall Mexican food place yet – so this summer when the Executive staff of Living Gourmet get back together (we run the biz virtually) we will try a few more of the TriValley Mexican holes in the wall to see if we can find our 5 out of 5 stars!  So if you have a suggestion of a place we should try let us know and sometime this summer we’ll pick a few and check them out.

One of the staff had an opportunity to try the fish tacos at the Lodi Beer Company the other day (I know not even close to the tri valley) but they were very good – 3 fish tacos for $10.50 – not worth the 2 hour drive in traffic, but if you are going that way – the Lodi Beer Company and their fish tacos were a good find.

Summer Class List as of 4/22/2012

The last few months have been pretty busy with everything going on and the blog has suffered from a lack of love.  As summer fast approaches, I’ve finally gotten my schedule put together and I’m happy to share it with all of you.  To register,  go to the Dublin Rec Guide or the Danville Rec Guide or the Livermore online registration  and search for the class number.  Register soon as classes fill up quick!

In Danville, I will be teaching the following classes:

Quick Easy Chocolate Truffles

Age 14Y and up

Chocolate truffles are a little bite of true delight. Truffles can be all chocolate or a combination of fillings covered in chocolate, but chocolate ganache is the requirement, inside for a pure chocolate truffle or surrounding a bite of flavor.

Come and make ganache and use it in the making of truffles.

Location: Veterans Memorial Building, Room A

Fees: $35.00(R) • $42.00(N)

Barcode: 25903 May 11 F 6:30 pm–9:00 pm

Let’s Make Jam

Age 14Y and up

Jam is a great introduction to canning; all the basics you learn in this class will open up the world of canning to you. It is a yummy treat, a great gift, and a wonderful way to extend the flavor of summer fruit. We will make 2 different jams, one sugar free. Storing and cute gift ideas will be discussed. Flavor choices and combinations will be

discussed. Students will leave with their homemade jam and recipes.

Location: Danville Community Center, Art Room

Fees: $27.00(R) • $32.00(N)

Barcode: 25900 Jun 5 Tu 6:00 pm–8:00 pm

In Livermore I will be teaching the following classes:

Specialty Fruit Canning

14 yrs+

In this semi-advanced class, learn to can sliced fruit (great for a pie, crisp or on its own) and a fancy jam. Depending on availability, possibilities include brandied apricots, lavender peach jam, spiced fruit. Recipes and ideas included. 1 class.

Sun 7/22 Noon–2:30 pm $33

Loving Lavender

14 yrs+

Lavender has a sweet floral flavor, with hints of lemon and citrus, it is drought tolerant and great for cooking and crafts. Class is a little bit of everything lavender. Make a great beverage, eat lavender cookies, make two great crafts and see and talk about lavender varieties. Understand the growing needs and which variety is best for your location.

Recipes, samples and the wonderful scent of lavender will abound. 1 class.

W 6–9 pm 6/6 $32

Canning Tomatoes

14 yrs+

The next best thing to garden-fresh tomatoes! Get the hands-on experience you need to can tomatoes at home. Learn to can whole tomatoes, marinara sauce and your own special blend. Class includes canning two batches–traditional and roasted tomato. 1 class.

W 8/22 6–9 pm $32

Christmas in July

14 yrs+

Are homemade holiday cookies, candies and fun gifts from your kitchen in your plans each year? Having problems finding the time during the busy holiday season? Learn some tricks and new recipes in this hands on class. Leave with recipes and samples. A great class to take with a family member. 1 class.

M 7/9 7–10 pm $35

In Dublin, I will be teaching the following classes:

Canning Tomatoes – 29167

Ages: 16 Yrs. and over

Sunday 8/19 2-5 pm
– Resident $26.00
– Non Resident $31.00

Fresh tomatoes are amazing; with the next best thing being home ‘canned’ ones. Tomato sauce, whole tomatoes, marinara, or even your own special blend will be discussed. Students will ‘can’ a batch of tomatoes, giving them the hands-on experience and the confidence to ‘can’ at home. 1 Class. Instructor: K. Billingsley

Christmas in July NEW – 29164

Ages: 13 Yrs. and over
Thursday 7/26 7-10pm
– Resident $32.00
– Non Resident $38.00

Christmas cookies, candies, and a fun gift from your kitchen; we all think we’ll do that this year! But December comes and time gets away from us. Let’s learn some tricks and new recipes, this is a hands on class – you will leave with recipes, and samples. This is a great class to do with a family member.1 Class. Instructor: K. Billingsley

Cooking a Mexican Fiesta – 28776

Ages: 14 Yrs. and over

Wednesday 5/16 6:30-8:30 pm
– Resident $35.00
– Non Resident $42.00

Join us to prepare a tasty four-course Mexican Fiesta with Quick Spanish Rice, Chili Rellenos, and more. Mexican cooking is fun for a party and is also a great budget option. Enjoy this hands-on class that culminates with a wonderful dinner. Students will leave with recipes and ideas on options for future meals.1 Class. Instructor: K. Billingsley

Cooking with Herbs – 28772

Tuesday 6/5/12 7-9pm
Ages: 18 Yrs. and over

– Resident $15.00
– Non Resident $18.00

This is a discussion and demo class. We will discuss herbs, how to grow, harvest, store and use. I will bring in samples of fresh herbs, and herbal products for you to taste. You will leave with recipes and pairing lists. 1 Class. Instructor: K. Billingsley 

Lets Make Jam – Canning Introduction – 28775

Ages: 14 Yrs. and over
Tuesday 6/12/2012 6:30-8:30pm
– Resident $27.00
– Non Resident $32.00

Fruit jam is a yummy treat, a great gift and a wonderful way to store your harvest. Students will make two different jams; one traditional and one sugar free. Students will learn how to store and present jam as a gift. Jam is a great introduction to canning; all the basics you learn in this class will open up the world of canning to you. Students will leave with their homemade jam and recipes. 1 Class. Instructor: K. Billingsley

Specialty Fruit Canning – 29166

Ages: 16 Yrs. and over
Saturday 7/14/2012  9:30-11:30am
– Resident $30.00
– Non Resident $36.00

A bit more advanced class, students will ‘can’ a fancy jam, and sliced fruit for a pie, crisp, or on its own. Canning possibilities include brandied apricots, lavender peach jam, and spiced fruit. Recipes and ideas included. 1 Class. Instructor: K. Billingsley

The Complete Pie – 28771

Ages: 14 Yrs. and over
Wednesday 5/9/2012 6:30-8:30pm
– Resident $26.00
– Non Resident $31.00

All you need to bring is a rolling pin, a pie plate, a 2 quart bowl-and you will leave with a simply delicious finished two crust fruit pie. Students will also learn tips on different fruits, and using seasoning and thickeners for your pie. 1 Class. Instructor: K. Billingsley

Kids in the Kitchen – Desserts – 29075

Ages: 10 Yrs. to 15 Yrs.
Monday- Friday 6/18,19,20,21,22  9:30-Noon
– Resident $175.00
– Non Resident $210.00

This is a ‘hands on’ baking class is for the baker with some experience, knowledge of baking terms and familiarity with following recipes. Students will make every day and special occasion desserts, rolled cake, pies, cookies and candies. Kids need to wear closed toe shoes and bring an apron; on Thursday bring a pie plate and rolling pin. 5 Classes. Instructor: K. Billingsley

Kids in the Kitchen – Italian Cooking NEW – 29077

Ages: 10 Yrs. to 14 Yrs.
Monday- Friday 8/13,14,15,16,17  9:30am-noon
– Resident $175.00
– Non Resident $210.00

Lots of us love Italian food, let’s spend a week cooking Italian! This is a more advanced class, kids should be comfortable reading and following recipes. Working in small groups we will create marinara sauce, minestrone, biscotti, antipasto, and more. 5 Classes. Instructor: K. Billingsley

Kids in the Kitchen BBQ Camp – 29078

Ages: 11 Yrs. to 16 Yrs.
Monday – Friday 7/30,31,8/1,2,3  1pm-4pm
– Resident $195.00
– Non Resident $234.00

A BBQ meal is not created to ‘just throw it on a fire.’ Students will learn how to safely start a BBQ, handle meat/poultry safely, marinade, make and use a rub, BBQ, and carve meat. Students will also learn how to create side dishes from the kitchen to put on the grill, so they can make a complete meal. We will taste our creations, and go home with great recipes. Closed toe shoes mandatory. 5 Classes. Instructor: K. Billingsley

Kids in the Kitchen Simple Yummy Meals Camp – 29076

Ages: 9 Yrs. to 13 Yrs.
Monday, Tuesday – Thursday and Friday 7/2,3,5,6
– Resident $140.00
– Non Resident $168.00

Create great simple meals which are perfect for lunch or a family dinner. Students will make healthy lunches each day, eat together and clean up. Meals will include: BBQ, corn dogs, lemonade, and more! 4 Classes. Instructor: K. Billingsley

A New Kind of Tax

In this time of fiscal uncertainty, there is one tax that parents all around are more than happy to get behind.  This tax, called the Parent Tax, is a tax on all consumed goods by children and that allows up to one parent to take a single bite or swallow of any food or drink item.  This tax is doubled if the parent was directly responsible for the child’s access to the food item, known also as a Handling Tax or Opening Fee.  Like all good rules, there are exceptions.  Tax exempt foods are any food items received as a gift and not designated for group consumption (a individual box of See’s Candy would be exempt for example) or items that are small enough that one bite or swallow would render them significantly compromised.  In addition, children who purchase food items with their own money earned from a weekly allowance or from can petition for a tax exemption on their goods

To collect this tax, the parent must declare their intentions upon first encountering the taxable object.  This must also occur before the child has consumed 25% of the item to insure that the tax is not exorbitant amount.  At any point in the taxation process, either side my call for arbitration from a 3rd party or protest the taxation with no more than one gentle tap and foot stops not to exceed 3 in any one minute period.  There are variations of this tax in almost every municipality so check with local specifics.

Upcoming Classes for Adults and Kids as of 1/12/12

Lets get the new year started with a list of my up coming classes. This first list is for classes for 13+ age group.  To register,  go to the Dublin Rec Guide or the Danville Rec Guide or the Livermore online registration  and search for the class number.  Register soon as classes fill up quick!

1.     Better Than Store Bought

Ever wondered how to make Chocolate syrup, mayonnaise (aioli), taco seasoning and beyond?   All of these are easier than you think and often cheaper than store bought.  You also have control of the ingredients, a great way to lower sugar, salt and/or control for food sensitivities.  This hands on class will give you a chance to make these recipes, taste test them, and may just save you that trip to the store!

In Dublin: #27813 January 22;  Sunday 2-4pm $25 resident, $30 non-resident
In Livermore: #2084 March 1; Thursday 6:30-9pm $29

2.     Quick Gourmet Appetizers

Appetizers make a meal special, impress that drop in company, or added with a bowl of soup make a great lunch. Don’t let the idea of a special appetizer scare you,  with a few quick tricks and use of some pre-prepared products you can create an unending supply of great appetizers we will make 3 in class and you will leave with ideas for many variations.

In Dublin: #27812 January 27;  Sunday 2-4pm $25 resident, $30 non-resident
In Livermore: # 2088 February 2; Thursday 6:30-8:30pm  $29 Continue reading