Becoming a homemaker wasn't exactly a priority for me at age 14 -- but I always loved home economics class. Watching Mrs. Harrington stir up an afternoon snack for our class under that huge cooking-show-style mirror was the perfect payoff after a day of dodging locker doors and surviving the mile run in gym class. And I preferred making food over learning how to whittle during woodshop.
As home economics teachers, Jenny Guthrie and Sue McLauchlin know that everyone likes to make food. But with kids, jobs, commitments and obligations galore, both found that preparing meals every night tends to lose its luster pretty fast -- especially after a full workday.
That lack of time bothered both women enough that they decided to capitalize on their frustration and start a business -- kind of a more affordable twist on the personal chef industry. Enter Class Act Cuisine.
Guthrie and McLauchlin had heard about "once-a-month" cooking not long before starting their business, and they'd even tried it themselves. But devoting an entire weekend to planning meals, grocery shopping and, finally, preparing food just wasn't feasible.
The pair brainstormed ways they could streamline the process, and devised a way that would cut out the part that they hated: shopping and prep work. Then they took that idea to the next level and made it into a business.
When you decide to do your cooking at Class Act Cuisine, the only thing you need to do ahead of time is sign up five days in advance and pick out the recipes you think look the tastiest. The rest is up to the owners.
In those five days, Guthrie and McLauchlin run all over town doing your grocery shopping. They purchase all the ingredients, and then they slice and dice everything before you get there.
Guthrie says that she used to get frustrated when planning meals. Class Act's concept ends up saving people a lot of time, money and frustration.
"You end up buying things that you don't need. [Class Act] kind of simplifies it and streamlines it and gives you the opportunity to make healthy meals," she says. "And in two hours, you can make meals for a month."
When you arrive at Class Act, near the Albertsons on 57th, a large classroom-like room full of prep tables, deli cases and decorated with chalkboards, you'll feel like you're back in home ec class. And just like your old home ec teacher, Guthrie and McLauchlin will have everything ready for you -- right down to what kind of storage containers to put your culinary creations in.
Each entr & eacute;e that you prepare will serve four to six adults -- meaning that even a family of four could have leftovers after eating a Class Act-designed meal. For $170, you go home with 12 of these entrees. On the May menu, the pair tried to cater to all family members' tastes. Entrees vary from gourmet recipes like the Szechuan-style Flank Steak and the Island Lime Shrimp, to things that the kids will love like "Bunwiches" (a sloppy Joe-style treat) to Cheese, Pepperoni and Sausage-Stuffed Foccacia. There are breakfast casseroles, desserts and even a Guthrie-family recipe ("Class Act Chicken") on the menu.
"It's a combination of healthy and gourmet," Guthrie says. "We really try to do a variety of things, so there is always something to choose."
After you assemble your selected entrees, Class Act tells you how to store them -- whether it's in pans that you've brought or in plastic bags. Each of your entrees will be tagged with a label that describes how to defrost them and even suggests some side dishes that will taste good with your meal.
Guthrie and McLauchlin say they've seen customers of all types--from at-home moms and working parents, to empty nesters and newlyweds. "[The newlyweds] are really cute," says Guthrie, "because they don't really know anything about cooking."
Watching Class Act's customers make food is nothing like watching a home economics class. Couples, groups of women and solo-flying cooks bustle around the brightly painted kitchen like Oompa Loompas in the chocolate factory -- each measuring out ingredients, slicing marinated meat and poring over recipes as if they were programmed machines.
Debbie Wiks, a kindergarten teacher from Regal Elementary, says that she forgot about attempting once-a-month cooking on her own when she discovered Class Act Cuisine. On her fourth trip to Class Act, she says she'd recommend Guthrie and McLauchlin's idea to anybody who works full-time.
But Class Act's offerings don't stop at full-time working parents or young adults who can't cook; they take private groups and even people preparing for dinner parties. And as mothers, Guthrie and McLauchlin will help you take pride in your culinary creations -- even though they did half of the work for you.
Class Act Cuisine is located in the Cedar Canyon Village shopping center at 3022 E. 57th Ave. Check out their menus online at www.classactcuisine.com, or call them at 443-8788.
What About the Meatloaf? -- Yup, we were right. Ian Wingate, former mastermind behind a handful of Inland Northwest restaurants, plans to re-open his Moxie restaurant in downtown Spokane at 816 W. Sprague. If you peek in the windows, you'll see Wingate and friends painting Japanese waves on the walls in preparation for a potential opening on Monday, May 17.
And he says not to worry: "We'll have the meatloaf, still," he says. "That's all anyone ever asks about."
Aside from Moxie, watch for a few new places popping up around downtown Spokaloo. Amalfi, a caf & eacute; with simple sandwiches, lunch specials and coffee, has made a home just inside the entrance of the Downtown Library. And just in time for summer, America's favorite ice-cream toting hippies will open a Ben and Jerry's Scoop Shop in the Atrium level at River Park Square.
Campfire Cooking -- Think your campfire-style meat and potatoes dishes are the best on a camping trip? Give your outdoor culinary skills a test during the Dutch Oven Cook-Off on Saturday, May 15, at 3:30 pm. The event is a competition between the Spokane Canoe & amp; Kayak Club and the Spokane Mountaineers to see who makes the best campfire eats, but anyone who wants to compete is welcome. Competitors should bring their own charcoal, Dutch oven and ingredients; spectators should bring a potluck dish to enjoy at the recipe judging and dinner at 5 pm.
Cook, Pack and Eat Dutch Oven Cook-off and Potluck on May 15 at 3:30 pm at Mountain Gear, 2002 N. Division. Call 325-9000.
Farmers' Markets -- Forget about buying those waxy cucumbers and watery tomatoes until next November. With the beginning of spring comes the opening of the area's farmers' markets -- and thank God, my taste buds were getting bored from pesticide-covered produce. The Kootenai County Market opens up on May 15 with a hootenanny of a performance by the Successful Hobos. And Spokanites can eat well, too -- the Spokane Farmers' Market opens on May 15 as well. Brad Keeler will play some tunes, and shoppers can watch a wool-spinning demonstration. The Spokane Marketplace's farmers market will open on June 2.
The Kootenai County Farmers' Market is located at Hwy. 95 and Prairie Ave in Hayden, Idaho. The Spokane Farmers' Market is located on Second Ave. between Browne St. and Division. The Spokane Marketplace is at 809 N. Washington St.