BEMIDJI -- As they say in New Orleans, let the good times roll!

And what a time it was this past Wednesday evening as Harmony Natural Foods Co-op launched the beginning of its fall cooking classes with a Creole taste of the South: jambalaya.

“Jambalaya is a one pot wonder,” Malisa Van Maasdam, the cooking instructor, said. “It’s quick and easy. It’s something you can freeze, can or make on a Tuesday night.”

Jambalaya, a zesty concoction of meat, veggies and spices that is mixed with rice, is a traditional Louisiana dish that can be prepared in a variety of ways, Van Maasdam explained.

But -- when it all boils down -- there are two types: Cajun and Creole.

Creole cooks make a red jambalaya that includes tomatoes, whereas Cajun cooks do not. They also tend to prepare their ingredients in a different order.

Van Maasdam, who has taught cooking classes at Harmony in the past, said she wanted to do a tutorial on jambalaya because the ingredients for the dish are “what’s coming out of (her) garden right now.”

“I also just want to keep thinking warm thoughts,” Van Maasdam added.

For the cooking demonstration, Van Maasdam decided on Creole jambalaya to take advantage of the freshly picked tomatoes and onions from Clearwater Woodcraft in Leonard, better known as “Ivan’s farm.”

“Jambalaya is good for fall because there’s so many tomatoes,” Van Maasdam said.

Throughout the lesson, she welcomed a hands-on approach with her students, encouraging them to chop, stir and get a closer look at the jambalaya’s cooking process.

A vegetarian, Van Maasdam prepared two recipes -- one with meat and one without -- so students could experience the customizable flavors of jambalaya according to one’s preference.

Once the jambalaya was finished, it was tasting time.

The vegetarian jambalaya was highlighted with extra veggies like zucchini, kale and eggplant while the classic version featured a healthier meat alternative with chicken sausage and shrimp.

As class was dismissed, students like Michelle Walker said they looked forward to the upcoming classes at Harmony this fall.

“I just love these classes and learning about food,” Walker said. “I especially like when the cooks from the Concordia Villages come and teach.”

The next cooking class at Harmony Natural Foods Co-op is Sept. 26. It will feature a course on Fresh Herbs and Vinaigrettes. Admission is $15 and pre-registration is required, so those interested in attending can register online or in the store.