Cooking Camp in Northern Paradise

Sunset over Cass Lake, from Star Island.

I have a lot of blog-catch up to do!  First of all, I was very fortunate to have spent the last week of Aug leading healthful cooking sessions at Camp Unistar, located on Cass Lake’s Star Island.

The focus for the week was very concrete — make food & bread. Participants did exactly that, every day for 2 hours. The baker, Dee, and I alternated days.  I had 12 – 8 participants who made 4 vegan dishes or so per session, which we then served for lunch & dinner, as part of the meals the kitchen staff had prepared.

The participants were terrific!  They enjoyed themselves under my tutelage. Lots of laughing and smiles! All campers much enjoyed the results of our efforts. I’m gathering feedback and will share soon.

I had a wonderful time myself, as a teacher and as a camper. It’s impossible not to love this camp, tucked away on a small quiet island with no roads, and with clear waters and virgin pine forests beckoning you. And hammocks, too.

Also, Camp Unistar’s gleaming professional kitchen is excellent, as are the staff. When I liaised with the Food Service Director and found out she kept stores of quinoa and barley on hand, I just knew we’d get along! Then she told me about their local farm source and I became even more excited. More about this farm in the next post.

As with all my lesson plans, I focused on versatility of vegetarian ingredients, ease of preparation, and basic skills. Brought along my cute Grains & Beans Tool-Kit to show some of the many kinds of whole grains and legumes that are widely available now. This serendipitously turned out to complement the lectures on grains by baker Dee.

The game plan in a nutshell was:

This is how I would have served the left-over Ratatouille from Day 1, if there had been any left-overs: topped with fried egg, black olives & feta.

Day 1: Veg Raw and Roasted
Raw Beet Salad, Firecracker Slaw, Roast Beets & Lentil Salad, Roast Ratatouille w fresh basil, 2 vinaigrettes.

Day 2: Herb Pestos, Vinaigrettes & Dips; Marinated Salads
Cilantro paste and creamy vegan herb dip; Curried Barley Salad (Curry Vinaigrette); Blanched Carrots & Kale in Orange Ginger Vinaigrette; Minted Asian Cukes & Radish Salad (Mint vinaigrette); Red Quinoa & Porcini Mushroom Pilaf. (Total 4 vinaigrettes & a dip.)

Red Bell Peppers & raisins sweeten sauteed fresh collards or kale, and make a beautiful dish.

Day 3: Beans and Greens
This day we made the entire lunch: Red Lentil & Squash Soup w/ Cardamom & Coco Milk; Braised Kale with Red Peppers & Raisins; Kale & Black-eyed Peas “Masala”; Sauteed Cabbage with Fennel Seeds; Cuke Radish Cilantro Raita (yogurt condiment). Plus, Moroccan Chermoula Marinade for that night’s grilled chicken supper.

As you can see, we cooked all sorts of dishes each day, some planned and some not. “Cross-fertilization” is the point. The Orange Ginger Vinaigrette was in their recipe packet but I had’t planned to necessarily use it. However, since we had extra, fat garden carrots and all that kale on hand, we quickly pulled together a brightly flavored, brilliantly colored Blanched Carrots & Kale Salad. This turned out to be one of the campers’ favorites.

By the way, everything we made was vegan (dairy-free) and gluten-free with the exception of the barley salad. I’ll post more soon about these camp sessions, with photos and recipes.

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