I'm a big fan of cooking classes, but the low-commitment, non-intense ones. Perfect for when life is crazy, there are kids at home, and I just have a little bit of time to escape. You can find cooking classes in a number of different locations, and some might even surprise you. How about your local grocery store? Our Shop-Rite holds cooking classes twice a week, and the menus are as varied as the ingredients. Vegetarian, Indian food, Mother's Day Brunch, you name it, and they've probably covered it.

I just got back from a class at our local Shop Rite, and for $20, it's one of the best bargains out there. And these days, who doesn't need a bargain? The class is run by a local chef and lasts about two hours. Some of them are pure demonstration, where the chef makes the entire menu in front of you, and you feast on it as components are completed, and then leave with the recipes. Some allow for a little more participation. Tonight's class menu featured Green Lettuce and Seared Certified Angus Beef Steak "Carpaccio" Wraps with Lime Zest, Tilapia with Lemon-Chive Sauce with Sauteed Red Chard and Brown Basmati Rice and Creamy Citrus Cheesecake with Apricot-Lemon Sauce. Not bad for twenty bucks, right?

If you happen to have a Kings Cooking Studio near you, they are another great source for cooking classes (I am taking one in April with


my six-year-old son), and even King Arthur Flour gives nationwide classes (that's next week's plan) and those happen to be my favorite price: free. A two hour class on baking cookies and pies ... for free. No arm-twisting needed. Your local community adult school is another great source for classes as well, as is Michael's Craft Store. Michael's does the Wilton baking classes and they're currently running a fantastic deal ... four Mondays in April, two hours each, $22! No surprise that you'll find me there next month.

What classes have you taken lately? Where do you go when you want a little extra culinary education? The next time you want a little "me" time or a little lesson in cooking, look local. Your next class could be as close as your nearest grocery store.