Houston may not be dense, but it can be quite good at hiding gems just out of sight. So when I was invited to a cooking class to celebrate the opening of RecipeHouse, an extension of Gracie Cavnar's Recipe 4 Success, I was stunned to learn that the organization, keeps its headquarters just a few steps from my front door in Montrose.
Recipe 4 Success has long brought its food education programs into Houston schools, and with RecipeHouse the organization is hoping to use its space and its connections to top Houston chefs to give more hands-on training in healthy cooking and eating to kids and adults alike. While the first floor of the converted home houses Recipe 4 Success offices, RecipeHouse takes up the lion's share of the second floor, with a large combined kitchen area and dining room. There's also an herb garden in the backyard, of course.
The January launch featured Recipe 4 Success board members and a few guests (like me) cooking a three-course meal at the instruction of Subzero/Wolf chef Garth Blackburn. At the large, semi-circular kitchen counter, Blackburn first demonstrated how he teaches kids about artificial ingredients. Reading the chemical additives from the ingredients label of an average box of breakfast cereal, he poured less-appetizing versions of each preservative and additive into a bowl, including shampoo and hair. That's a visual lesson anyone can learn from.
Reading the chemical additives from the ingredients label of an average box of breakfast cereal, he poured less-appetizing versions of each preservative and additive into a bowl, including shampoo and hair.
But while I haven't exactly abandoned my Crispix, there were other healthful tips delivered as we prepared spinach and goat cheese strata with crispy winter greens and a simple garlic basil sauce. One trick I like: For lighter dressings, replace mayonnaise not with a light mayo (which is made with fake ingredients) but with light sour cream, which loses calories by using skim milk. It even adds an extra tang.
There was also an entree of crab-and-brie-stuffed pork with poblano polenta and veggie confetti and strawberries with Ghirardelli chocolate and Meyer lemon whipped cream for dessert. The kitchen is small, with room for about a dozen students, but the intimate environment helps encourage questions and participation.
The spring schedule includes visits from Revival Market's Ryan Pera (who will teach about charcuterie) and El Meson's Peter Garcia (preparing Cinco de Mayo dishes). Monthly class themes include "celebration," which offers healthier menu ideas for holidays and other events, "Date Night" classes for couples, "Homemade" lessons for beginner chefs and after-school and camp classes for kids from second to sixth grade in six-week increments.