CHARITON, Iowa -- A new in-store cooking school program is enabling Hy-Vee here to help its shoppers prepare quick meals while simultaneously promoting many of its Center Store products.
"Cooking With Bonnie" is a weekly two-hour cooking lesson taught by Bonnie Boal, a local journalist/cook, who uses a variety of dry groceries, beverages and frozen foods. Private-label products, such as canned vegetables, are also included.
The program is currently being offered in three Des Moines-area stores, according to Tammy Gates, food store manager at Hy-Vee's 35th Street location, where it has been running for about two months. Classes are free and are held once a week from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. No registration is required.
In addition to perishables, Center Store items play an integral part in the program. For instance, one lesson showed how certain wines and liqueurs can be used to complement a meal, while another included ice cream toppings. Dried beans, frozen vegetables and canned pie fillings also have been used. About four recipes are demonstrated at each lesson.
Interest in the program has grown since its inception. About 20 people attend the 35th Street store's lesson each week, Gates said. "Many consumers don't know which wines go with different types of food," Gates added. "We just expanded our wine department here, so it's helping to educate our customers about what we now offer."
On the calendar for this month are "Christmas and Hanukkah Gifts From Your Kitchen!"; "Holiday Hors d' Oeuvres, Sparking Wines and Special Liqueur"; and "Crown Roast of Iowa Pork and Delicious Accompaniments for a Christmas or New Year Dinner to Remember."
One of last month's recipes included desserts, Cajun concoctions, Dixie beer and pecan-sweet potato pie. "Quick But Still Delicious" was the theme of another class, aimed at helping consumers survive the busy holiday season with quick meals.
The lessons are held in different areas of each store, depending on the layout. At Hy-Vee's Urbandale store, for instance, they take place in the bakery area.
The retailer has not decided how long the program will last, but plans to run it at least through the holidays.