Cooking Together

by —19 September 2019

Nourishing & Nurturing Lives

“Be the one who nurtures and builds. Be the one who has an understanding and a forgiving heart, one who looks for the best in people. Leave people better than you found them.” 
― Marvin J. Ashton

Kim Hauptman possesses all the ingredients for nourishing, nurturing and understanding. For nearly three decades, she’s cooked up ways to gather nine women to meet in the kitchen four times a year. The passing of time has baked up and simmered chapters of raising children, facing the challenges of sicknesses and celebrating the marriages of children and births of grandchildren.

When Hauptman’s nephew was faced with brain cancer, she reached out to Rita Gallagher, whose sister had fought brain cancer. As a longtime friend from their Denver days, Lynda Ballard was also brought into the group. She later introduced Cari Piatowski. Kristi Hoefle joined when she moved to town. Leslie McCormick crossed paths with Hauptman when their children were in swimming lessons together. Lori Forseth was a neighbor and brought in good friend Sandy Kunkel. I joined when I relocated from San Diego.

Over the years, the core group, known simply as the Gourmet Club, has basically remained constant, exploring new recipes, trying new flavors and finding new ways of cooking. The only requirement for choosing a menu, founder Shannon Johnson says, is that “it has to be something you have never made before.”

Johnson says started the group in 1986 because “I liked to cook, and I liked to do it with other people.” At that time, the club had only seven members, and at each gathering a guest was invited to join. “Kim was one of the first people I invited, and everyone liked her.”

With a daughter in first grade and her husband needing help with his business, Johnson left the group a decade after she started it. To this day, she still cooks from the recipes that were neatly typed on a typewriter. Wrinkles and spots showcase favorite recipes like Sour Cherry Riesling Soup and Triple Chocolate Almond Rum Torte.

Hauptman laughs when she relates how she became a member. Johnson approached her and asked, “Do you want to join Gourmet Club?” and in the same breath, “Do you want to help with the Billings Studio Theatre auction?” Hauptman agreed to both.

Every September, Hauptman calls the group to meet to schedule our cooking sessions. Members are teamed up in pairs to help decide on the menu, buying the ingredients, supplying the recipes and setting up the kitchen for preparation and cooking.

Shannon Johnson holds on to some of the club’s early recipes.

Leslie McCormick remembers almost setting her cabinets on fire when they were making a flambé dish. Then, when a Pyrex stock pot broke, Lori Forseth says, “I almost committed hari-kari, majorly cutting myself.” One year, when Hauptman was in charge of the Alberta Bair Theater fundraising dinner, she recruited the help of the Gourmet Club. Not only did they cook up heavy appetizers for 1,400 people on a $1,500 budget, but on the night of the event, when no servers showed, Rita Gallagher says, “We ran up and down the stairs in our high heels” to complete service.

“The women in the Gourmet Club mean so much,” Leslie McCormick says. “They have been connected to a large portion of my life.” As per Marvin J. Ashton’s quote, Kim Hauptman has, through the Gourmet Club, nurtured our lives by looking at the best in each of us.


6 Things to keep in mind

  • Invite enough members to fit at your kitchen or dining room table
  • Make sure those invited have schedules that mesh for a consistent meeting time
  • Decide how you want to divide the cost of the meals
  • Choose recipes that you can realistically execute with the equipment, space and time you have
  • Decide if everyone should pitch in with cleanup at the end of the night


GOURMET CLUB: Fresh Spring Luncheon Menu


3 ripe beefsteak tomatoes
1 ball fresh mozzarella cheese
3 T olive oil
1 T rice wine vinegar
Salt, to taste
Several stalks of basil for about a cup of leaves
Fresh ground pepper, to taste

Slice tomatoes and mozzarella into desired thicknesses, about 1 inch. Place on platter, alternating cheese and tomatoes.  In a small bowl, mix together oil, vinegar and salt. Drizzle over tomatoes and cheese. Scatter basil leaves on top and season with black pepper.


8 celery stalks including leaves, ribs removed and sliced diagonally to ¼ -inch thickness
½ c. chopped toasted salted almonds
4 Medjool dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
¼ c. extra virgin olive oil
3 T. fresh lemon juice
¼ t. dried chili flakes
Salt, to taste
Fresh ground pepper, to taste
1/3  c. shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano

Soak celery in a bowl of ice water for 30 minutes. Drain and pat dry. In a medium bowl, toss celery with olive oil, almonds, dates, lemon juice and chili flakes. Season with salt and pepper. Toss in cheese and serve.



4 pounds grape tomatoes
1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste
Fresh ground pepper, to taste


2 c. whole milk ricotta cheese
Zest from one lemon
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 c. finely chopped fresh basil leaves
1 t. crushed red pepper flakes
Salt, to taste


1½ pounds Yukon potatoes, sliced to 1/8-inch thickness, kept in cold water
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, stems and seeds removed, finely chopped
8 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
8 ounces of spinach leaves
Fresh ground pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste


12 ounces lasagna sheets
12 ounces grated Italian cheese blend
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

For the sauce, pour oil into a large baking dish. Add tomatoes and salt and pepper. Toss to coat with oil. Spread tomatoes in pan and stir halfway through baking. Cook until skins shrivel and they are brown, about 45 minutes. Remove tomatoes from the oven and lower temperature to 350 degrees. Puree tomatoes in a blender. For the filling, in a medium-size bowl, mix together ricotta, zest, eggs, basil, red pepper flakes and salt, to taste. For the vegetable medley, heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper and garlic and stir-fry until lightly browned, roughly 7 to 10 minutes. Add half the spinach leaves, cover the pan and steam until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Drain potatoes, rinse with cold water and drain. To assemble, grease a 13-by-9-inch baking pan. Thinly coat bottom of the pan with sauce. Cover bottom with one-third of the pasta sheets. Spread ricotta over sheets. Arrange potatoes over top without overlapping. Add half the vegetables. Repeat, using half the remaining sauce and finish with the rest of the sauce and half the cheese. Cover pan with foil, place on baking sheet and cook until bubbly and center is hot, about 1¼ hours. Sprinkle with remaining cheese, return to oven to melt, about 2 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes and serve.



6½-ounce gluten-free chocolate-wafer crumbs, about 1¾ cups
¼ c. packed dark brown sugar
1 T. gluten-free flour
½ t. salt
6 T. unsalted, butter, melted


1½ c. fresh blackberries
1/3 c. sugar
1½ c. heavy cream
½ c. sour cream
¼ c. raw pistachios, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together crumbs, sugar, flour and salt.  Mix in butter.  Press crumbs into the bottom of a 9-inch springform tart pan. Chill in freezer for 10 minutes. Place on baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Cool completely. In a food processor, puree blackberries with sugar. Using a rubber spatula, press puree through a fine mesh sieve. Discard the seeds. Whip cream until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in sour cream and then berry puree. Spoon blackberry mixture into the tart shell. Refrigerate until set, about 2 hours. Sprinkle with pistachios and serve.




From left to right: Cari Piatowski, Lynda Ballard, Kim Hauptman, Rita Gallagher, Kristi Hofle, Sandy Kunkel, Leslie McCormick, Lori Forseth


Kim Hauptman adds the finishing touch to the Blackberry Fool Chocolate Tart as Rita Gallagher looks on.


Kim Hauptman shows off the finished Blackberry Fool Chocolate Tart


Leslie McCormick with her binder full of 30 years of recipes from Gourmet Club.


Sandy Kunkel with a plate of tomato mozzarella and basil salad


Kim Hauptman and Rita Gallagher serve up dessert to Cari Piatowski, Leslie McCormick and Lynda Ballard

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