Cooking Up a Storm in Paradox


When Sandra Courneen and her husband Terry retired to Paradox Lake a few years back, they were intent on keeping busy. But what would they do? The former special education teacher for the Rochester City School District only had to turn to her bookcase full of cookbooks for inspiration. And Paradox Thyme, a cooking School was born. Terry happily came along for the ride.

Sandra is a veteran of “umpteen cooking classes” and was a caterer.

“Catering came into my life when a friend of mine said to me, ‘How would you like to help out?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I'd love it.’ My favorite part of it was putting the finishing touches on, the garnishes and making everything look pretty.

The idea for the cooking school, which Sandra runs out of her home, came about last spring.

“I was lying in bed and saying, ‘I have no goal, but I have a house full of cookbooks and I have a library full of notes and menus, recipes.’ I said, ‘Okay. I think that's what I'm going to try and do,’ and I wanted to meet people”.

What Sandra offers is more than just instruction.

“It's a cooking class. That's the initial part of it. The last part of it is that you enjoy a full meal. There's a bottle of wine on the table, or two or maybe, can't talk about the rest, and you eat a full meal. You get the recipes to take home,” Sandra told Schroon Laker.

“You get a feedback form to let us know how we're doing, and you get something called "wise cracks" which is information about some of the ingredients. For instance, one night I had a lot of recipes with sesame seeds. So, I researched everything about sesame seeds and let people know the interesting parts that they could take home with them, and talk about sesame seeds."

When not enjoying her role as cooking instructor, you will find Sandra in the garden (in season) where she grows tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, zucchini, onions, blueberries, grapes. Raspberries, potatoes and pears.

“I like to shop local when I can. For instance, the Food Co-op is a nice place to go, but I really like the roadside stands to get the fresh produce. To get my meats my husband is a meat procurer. He makes friends with the butcher and right now his friend is at Price Chopper in Queensbury. So, he gets the best cut. He gets lots of good information, and the butcher will set things aside for him. The other thing is, you can try BJ's or Costco, too”.

And what’s Terry’s secret to getting the butcher to become your friend?

“You have to be polite to the butcher. If he's important, you become important. You get to know the butcher, just like anybody else”.

The couple enjoy simple meals. For Sandra that’s pasta with a light sauce made from homegrown tomatoes. For Terry it’s fish.

“I like to grill salmon. I'm a great smoker. I have a Pellet Smoker now. We do everything from pulled pork to ribs. We do everything.

Sandra chimes in: “I was trying to think of the one that's more pertinent to today. Pastrami.

“Oh, yeah,” says Terry. “I'm one of the few guys around that makes pastrami.” How do you make pastrami?

“I can't tell you. It's a secret”. Says Sandra:  “You have to come to a class to get the recipe”.

This week there are classes on Thursday, April 5, or Friday, April 6. Both classes re from 6:30pm – 9pm.  This week you’ll learn how to make Yogurt Braised Chicken with cashews and raisins; Rice Pilaf with pine nuts; Caesar salad; Strawberries and Oranges with vanilla scented wine. Complimentary red or white wine, of course!  $45.00 per person.

The info: 3 Letsonville Road, Paradox, NY 12858. 518-585-7286 |