I’ve mentioned before that my mom teaches a high school culinary arts program. Her students have a few big national competitions coming up this summer, where they will be vying for scholarships to culinary school, and they recently held a really cool fundraiser at BOS in the Renaissance Savery Hotel in downtown Des Moines to raise money for their trips. My mom holds events like this a couple time a year, and I finally made it to out to Iowa for a long weekend in May to support her efforts!
First, I had to check out the gorgeous new kitchens that were built for her students last summer. Along with money provided from the school district, my mom has written a lot of grants to obtain the funds for these gorgeous facilities. Here’s the demo kitchen.
And just one of the kitchens where her students practice making meals. They have a couple actually, along with a walk-in fridge, freezer, and huge pantry.
They also run a café a couple times a week, which is open to the public, and here’s the line where they prep all the dishes.
And, of course, they compete in a wide variety of culinary competitions, including FCCLA and ProStart. Her students also receive college credit for completing her two year program. It just sounds so fun!
Anyway, for the fundraiser, Chef John Andres graciously opened his kitchen at BOS and let the students prepare a three course meal and also serve all the guests in the restaurant. Then he donated 100% of the proceeds to the program!
There were two options for each course, and I attended the fundraiser both nights so I got to try everything – it was all very delicious! For just $29, diners were treated to either crab cakes with cabbage slaw and wasabi aioli or arugula salad with lemon-balsamic vinaigrette and gouda croutons for the appetizer course, parmesan-breaded chicken with marina and mozzarella atop herbed risotto or pork loin stuffed with gruyere, red pepper, and spinach with glazed yams for the main course, and a caramel apple tartlet with fresh berries or peanut butter cookie dough brownie with vanilla bean ice cream for dessert.
Yes, these peanut butter cookie dough brownies! My mom thought featuring the recipe that landed me on the Food Network might drum up a little extra publicity for her event. I thought this was a crazy idea, but she ended up being right. I did a radio show to help promote the dinner and chatted with some guests about my experience. It was a very successful fundraiser, and I’m so proud of my mom – she is such an inspiring teacher!
The only problem with the weekend was that it was too short! I did manage to squeeze in some shopping with my mom, Scrabble with my dad, and a super fun Saturday night with my good friend Emily and her boyfriend Art. I also checked out the incredible Des Moines farmer’s market. I was looking for sweet corn, but it wasn’t quite in season yet.
I knew that the recipe that went along with this post just had to feature corn – and pork, since Iowa produces more pork than any other state. Since my mom loves pancakes, I decided to run with these ingredients and whip up savory cornmeal pancakes packed with corn, bacon, and sun dried tomatoes. We went ahead and poured syrup on top and devoured them for breakfast. These were such a nice twist on traditional pancakes!
Cornmeal Pancakes with Corn, Bacon, and Sun Dried Tomatoes
4 strips applewood smoked bacon, chopped
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup cooked corn
1/2 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes
1/2 cup maple syrup
Place chopped bacon in a nonstick skillet over medium heat and sauté for 7 to 9 minutes or until crispy; drain on paper towels.
Mix the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl. Stir in the egg, buttermilk, and butter until just combined. Stir in the cooked bacon, corn, and sun dried tomatoes.
Pour 1/3 cup scoops of batter onto a greased nonstick skillet over medium heat. Flip the pancakes when bubbles start to appear on top, after about 3 minutes. Cook the other side until golden brown and serve with maple syrup. Makes 8 pancakes (4 servings).
Nutrition: 468 calories, 12.6g fat, 4.2g fiber, 12.4g protein per serving
Cost: $1.80 per serving