Thursday, February 19, 2009

A tip of the cap to Oscar

Mini Mushroom Quiche Caps

Recipe courtesy of the Mushroom Council and

Yield: 18

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 20-25 minutes

8 ounces mushrooms
Non-stick cooking spray
1/4 cup finely diced green onion
Bacon, 3 strips, cooked
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of freshly ground black or white pepper
3 large eggs
2 large egg whites
2 tablespoons half-and-half
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 ounces shredded Swiss cheese

Preheat oven to 325º. Spray mini muffin pans with non-stick spray. Slice 3 mushrooms for garnish. Heat a 10” non-stick skillet and heat over medium-high heat and spray with cooking spray. Add a single layer of mushrooms, and cook, without stirring, for about five minutes or until mushrooms become red-brown on one side. Turn and cook about five minutes or until other side is same color. Set mushrooms aside.

Chop remaining mushrooms and add with onions, salt and pepper and sauté, stirring occasionally, 8 minutes, until onions are soft and all moisture has evaporated. Remove from the heat and let cool.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs, half-and-half and mustard. Stir in mushroom mixture and cheese.

Divide egg/mushroom mixture among muffin cups, filling each about 3/4 full. Top each cup with one slice of mushroom and lightly spray with non-stick spray. Bake about 20-25 minutes until puffed and set. Let cool in the pan 5 minutes. Using a teaspoon, gently run the spoon around the edge of each cup and scoop each quiche to remove. Place a sautéed mushroom slice on top of each quiche and serve.

Apparently her husband was famous

Charles Darwin’s name is recognized around the globe and his discoveries have shaped our understanding of the natural world. While the scientist pursued research and theory, his wife Emma Wedgwood Darwin, like many women of her time, kept a notebook filled with recipes, culinary instructions and personal anecdotes about everyday life in the Darwin household.

Authors Dusha Bateson and Weslie Janeway have recreated and tested every one of Mrs. Darwin’s 55 recipes and put them in a new cookbook, Mrs. Charles Darwin’s Recipe Book: Revived and Illustrated. This unique cookbook offers a rare glimpse behind the dining room doors of one of the Victorian era’s most eminent families.

More than a cookbook, Mrs. Charles Darwin’s Recipe Book illuminates a lifestyle at the top of English society. This treasure trove of fifty-five delicious recipes reflects Emma Darwin’s social position and responsibility for feeding her family, entertaining guests, and maintaining the household. Reading her recipes and notes today offers remarkable insight into Victorian life and includes dishes popular in her day such as:

· Baked Cheese Custard
· Scotch Woodcock
· Beef Collops
· Chicken and Macaroni
· Veal Cake
· Turnips Cresselly
· Baked Apple Pudding
· Potato Rissoles
· Arrowroot Pudding
· Compote of Apples

And of course, all her ingredients were free-range and organic.

These wonderful recipes have been adapted for today’s modern kitchen and are easy to prepare and create unique dinner menus for family get-togethers, holiday parties, or weeknight dinners.

From a historical perspective, the authors provide a unique look at Victorian life through their Introduction chapter, discussing details and practices of the Darwin household. And, the historian in anyone will be delighted to see many reprinted pages from Mrs. Darwin’s actual diaries.

“While researching our book we found that cooking and eating a dish enjoyed by Charles Darwin and his family brought us closer to the great man,” say authors Dusha Bateson and Weslie Janeway. “And our impression of Emma at the end of our culinary journey? We felt a growing admiration and warmth. From her letters she emerges as a truly interesting and extraordinary woman. “

Feb. 12 was Darwin Day, the bi-centennial anniversary of Darwin’s birth and an international celebration of the discoveries and life of this extraordinary man. Mrs. Charles Darwin’s Recipe Book is the perfect complement to the celebration of the life of Charles Darwin through authentic dishes from the Darwin household, and opening a window into the life and accomplishments of Emma Darwin, who gracefully supported her husband along his path of scientific inquiry. Cookery, history, Victoriana, and botany buffs alike will be sure to devour this rich culinary exploration.


DUSHA BATESON studied history at England’s Cambridge University. She may have inherited her interests in investigating archival materials and writing from her father, a BBC foreign correspondent to the Balkans and author of several books. Born and raised in the UK, Dusha has worked as a journalist and as a librarian. In 1988, her husband, Sir Patrick Bateson, became Provost of King’s College where the Batesons entertained many guests, from Queen Elizabeth II to the Dalai Lama. The Batesons live in East Suffolk, England.

WESLIE JANEWAY studied history and politics at Barnard College and Brown University. She has worked as a political analyst in banking, investment banking and continued to work in investment (at Sontag Advisory, a boutique investment firm) until 2006, when she and her semi-retired husband moved to Cambridge, England. She lives with her husband and son variously between Cambridge, England, New York City, and the coast of Maine.

Mrs. Charles Darwin’s Recipe Book
Revived and Illustrated
by Dusha Bateson and Weslie Janeway
Glitterati Inc.
November 2008

We're baaaack!!!

Had a hiatus from the blog -- much non-food ado -- but now we're back running again.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A glorious find. Must be seen. Must be tried.


Crawfish etouffe... smother some goodness

Mardi Gras is Feb. 24 this year, and the chefs at The Culinary Institute of America suggest you celebrate it Cajun-style by serving Crawfish Étouffée. (Note: It'll work with shrimp, and I've even substituted chunks of catfish fillets for this dish).

According to the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, the humble crawfish (known more widely as crayfish) owes its stardom to the Cajuns and is plentiful in the freshwaters of Louisiana's bayous and lakes. Crawfish finds its way into many dishes, but the little crustacean is mostly identified with étouffée, a Cajun translation of "smothered," derived from the French étouffer.

"Étouffée is the name given to dishes like this one that are gently cooked in a covered pot," explains CIA Chef Kathy Polenz. "Crawfish, or crayfish, are sold live or as cooked meat. If you buy crawfish meat, look for the words fat-on. Crawfish fat is an integral part of a good étouffée."

So, let the chefs of the CIA show you how to "laissez les bon temps rouler!" ("let the good times roll!"), by cooking up a pot of Crawfish Étouffée for Mardi Gras this year.The following recipe can be found in The Culinary Institute of America's One Dish Meals (2006, Lebhar-Friedman) cookbook, which is available for purchase at bookstores nationwide.

Crawfish Étouffée
5 servings

3 tablespoons bacon fat or canola oil
1 1/2 cups minced onions
1 cup minced celery
3/4 cup minced green bell pepper
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon mild paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or as needed
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne
Salt as needed
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups fish or chicken broth or as needed
1 1/4 pound crawfish tail meat with fat
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup thinly sliced scallions, white and green portions
1/4 cup basil chiffonade (cut into fine threads)
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Heat the bacon fat or oil in a casserole or Dutch oven over medium heat until it shimmers.
Add the onion and sauté over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent, about 6 minutes. Add the celery, bell pepper, and garlic; cover the pan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the paprika, white and black pepper, cayenne, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; sauté, stirring constantly, until aromatic, about 1 minute.

Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick and pasty, about 3 minutes. Add the broth and stir well to work out any lumps. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the crawfish tails and their fat. Cover the pot and cook over very low heat, stirring frequently, until the crawfish is cooked through and very hot, 8 to 10 minutes. Add a little more broth as needed throughout the cooking time if the étouffée is getting too thick. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.

Add the butter, scallions, basil, and parsley and stir to combine. Serve the étouffée in heated bowls.

Nutrition analysis, étouffée without rice per an 11-ounce serving: 340 calories, 27g protein, 16g carbohydrate, 18g fat, 370mg sodium, 95mg cholesterol, 2g fiber.

Needing some sunshine?

Today's Your Table section of The Star takes a first glance at ordering seeds and such for the upcoming (really, it is) planting season.

Herbs such as parsley, chervil, cilantro and dill grow wonderfully from seed. Last year, we made a homemade cold frame and started the seeds outside weeks before traditional frost-free days.


Actually, there's still some flat-leaf parsley soldiering on through the winter.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

American Classics, revisited

From the Your Table section of today's Anniston Star, a humble offering of old school American recipes that have never gone out of style. Cheers!

American classics
New era reminds us of the old favorites in our nation’s pantry
By Laura Tutor
ltutor@annistonstar. com

After their inauguration Tuesday, President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and about 200 guests sat down for lunch in Statuary Hall on Capitol Hill.

Another president, Abraham Lincoln, is Obama’s hero. So it’s appropriate that the first meal Obama ate as president was inspired by the Lincoln White House. On the menu for his inaugural lunch: seafood stew of lobster, shrimp and black cod topped with a puff pastry dome; duo of pheasant and duck served with sour cherry chutney and molasses sweet potatoes; and apple cinnamon sponge cake with sweet cream glace.

Not sure Lincoln would have had glace, but we won’t quibble.

The lunch, organized by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, included members of the Supreme Court, Cabinet designees and the congressional leadership. Chefs spent months researching the food and cooking style of the 1860s. Wild game, especially duck, appeared on many White House menus of the day. Apples were widely available.

“Stews were very popular. It wasn’t rare to have stew for breakfast,” says account executive Rickie Niceta of the decision to serve seafood stew. “But we were also thinking about who will be attending. They’ll be cold, and they’ll be starving. We wanted to start with something hot and substantial.”

January in D.C. calls for hot and substantial, but it also brings to mind some famous recipes that have been handed down through the years. The restaurant in the Senate section of the Capitol serves bean soup every day – and has for more than a century. And while some pages will insist it’s served the same soup every day for more than a century, the recipe is actually a pretty good bean soup for a cold day on the Hill.

Not to be outdone from the heartland, The Truman Library in Independence, Mo., has dozens of recipes that Bess Truman whipped up regularly for her family and friends: American classics like meatloaf and mac-and-cheese.

Finish your presidential meal off with something sweet, such as Mamie Eisenhower’s fudge, which still makes the rounds at Christmas, or the tart cranberry pudding served at Mount Vernon.

Thanks to our friends at The Washington Post for doing the legwork on the menu particulars.

Senate Bean Soup
According to one story, the Senate’s bean soup tradition began early in the 20th century at the request of Sen. Fred Dubois of Idaho. Another story attributes the request to Sen. Knute Nelson of Minnesota, who expressed his fondness for the soup in 1903.

The recipe attributed to Dubois includes mashed potatoes and makes a 5-gallon batch. Well, he was from Idaho, so what do we expect? This is the original recipe, which included mashed potatoes – the ultimate thickening agent of its day. Oh, and this makes five gallons, so prepare to freeze some.

3 pounds dried navy beans
2 pounds of ham and a ham bone
1 quart mashed potatoes
5 onions, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
four cloves garlic, chopped
half a bunch of parsley, chopped
Clean the beans, then cook them dry in a large (really large) pot for a few minutes to heat them. Add ham, bone and water and bring to a boil. Cook until begins just get soft, but still have some texture. Add potatoes and mix thoroughly. Add chopped vegetables and bring to a boil. Simmer for one hour before serving.

Mrs. Truman’s Meat Loaf
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1/2 pound ground veal
1/2 pound pork (get all the meat ground and mixed at store)
1 cup bread crumbs (or oatmeal)
3/ 4 cup of milk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons chili sauce
1/2 teaspoon Kitchen Bouquet
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste
chopped onions
Mix and form into a loaf. Bake at 350 for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Several slices of bacon add to flavor if put on top at baking time.

Mrs. Truman’s Mac and Cheese
8 ounces macaroni, cooked and drained
1/ 2 pound grated cheddar cheese
2 cups milk
1 egg
1/ 4 cup margarine (she said “oleo” on her recipe card. That’s so retro.)
In a baking dish, place layer of macaroni, then add a layer of cheese. Repeat your layers to use everything up. Combine milk and eggs; pour over macaroni and cheese. Dot the top with butter. This can be made up to this point and refrigerated for a day – just take it from the ’fridge and let it warm up some while your oven is preheating to 350. Then bake at 350 until hot and bubbly.

Cranberry Pudding from Mount Vernon

2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons sugar
pinch salt
1/ 2 cup molasses
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/ 3 cup boiling water
1 1/ 2 cups sifted flour
1 1/ 2 cups cranberries, cut in half
Combine eggs, sugar, salt and molasses. In a separate container, put 2 teaspoons of soda in 1/3 cup boiling water. Add to egg mixture. Stir in flour and cranberries. Steam in a buttered rice steamer for 1 1/2 hours. Serve warm with the sauce.
2 sticks butter
1 cup half and half
2 cups sugar
Melt butter. Add sugar and half and half and stir until sugar is dissolved.

Mamie’s Million Dollar Fudge
4 1/2 cups sugar
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons butter
1 tall can evaporated milk
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate bits
12 ounces German-sweet chocolate
1 pint marshmallow cream
2 cups nuts
Boil the sugar, salt, butter, evaporated milk together for six minutes.
Put chocolate bits and German chocolate, marshmallow cream and nutmeats in a bowl. Pour the boiling syrup over the ingredients. Beat until chocolate is all melted, then pour in pan. Let stand a few hours before cutting.
Remember, it is better the second day. Store in tin box.

More American classics
Source: The American Woman’s Cook Book (1950 edition my grandma gave me.)

Boston Baked Beans
2 cups dried navy beans
1 small onion, chopped
1 /8 pound salt pork or bacon
1/ 2 teaspoon salt
1/ 2 teaspoon dry mustard
2 tablespoons molasses

Soak beans overnight in water. Drain and rinse. In a slow-cooker, add all ingredients and 2 cups water. Turn to low and cook for 10 hours. Stovetop/oven: In a Dutch oven, put the rinsed beans and all ingredients. Simmer on the stove about 1-2 hours, partially covered, until the beans soften. Then pour into a baking dish and bake at 350 for another hour.

New England Clam Chowder
1/ 4 pound salt pork or bacon, cubed
2 small onions, minced
1 rib celery, diced
2 tablespoons flour
1 quart clams (with juice from can or jar)
6 small potatoes, peeled and diced
2 cups chicken broth
salt to taste
1/ 2 stick of butter
1/ 2 teaspoon pepper
3 1/ 2 cups half-n-half
Brown pork in a Dutch oven or heavy pot. Add onion and celery and cook about 3 minutes. Sprinkle on the flour and cook about 1 minute more, stirring to coat the vegetables with the flour. Add the potatoes and chicken broth, then cook over low-medium heat until the potatoes soften, stirring frequently so the vegetables don’t stick. Don’t worry if some of the potatoes start to break apart – that will help thicken your chowder. Add remaining ingredients, then cook, covered, over low heat for about 15 minutes. DO NOT BOIL. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if necessary.

Food glitterati coming to Atlanta

See Food Network stars at the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show
Celebrate the creativity, diversity and just good fun of southern food at the Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining Show. The show will be April 18-19 in Atlanta. (There's also one in West Palm Beach, but who can afford to go?)
Both the Atlanta and the WPB event will feature the regions’ hottest local chefs in live cooking demonstrations and Tasting and Entertaining experts from around the nation will teach you how to make any event special with just a little creativity. Each event will also feature more than 150 exhibitors showcasing gourmet foods, specialty beverages, unique kitchen gadgets, floral, linens.
Last, but certainly not least, if you are a Food Network fan, see your favorite TV chef share their personal stories and recipes at the show. You can even get a special 10% discount on Celebrity theater tickets.
(Note: Tickets to the Celebrity Theater include General Admission, so you won’t have to buy both). Just enter the code SOFAB into the promo code box upon check out to receive the discount. This special promotion will only last until midnight on FRIDAY, so buy your tickets today!

Paula Deen
March 28-29 West Palm Beach
April 18-19 Atlanta
Bobby Flay
March 28-29 West Palm Beach
Giada De Laurentiis
April 18-19 Atlanta

Guy Fieri
April 18-19 Atlanta
The Neelys
March 28-29 West Palm Beach
April 18-19 Atlanta

Friday, January 16, 2009

Sirius radio for serious cooks


The three culinary experts talk live on Martha Stewart Living Radio about food, life, travels and more

Martha Stewart, Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert will take listener calls from around the country

WHO: Martha Stewart, Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert

WHAT: Martha will interview Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert during a live broadcast of At Martha’s Table, an exclusive SIRIUS XM series.

Martha will discuss their accomplished careers and achievements, including Anthony’s bestselling book, Kitchen Confidential, and his series, No Reservations, now in its fifth season on the Travel Channel, as well as Eric’s experience as chef and co-owner of the world-renowned and award-winning Le Bernardin restaurant in New York City.

Martha, Anthony and Eric will also share their own tips, personal recipes and kitchen secrets with SIRIUS XM listeners who are encouraged to call in and ask questions during the live broadcast at 866-675-6675.

WHERE: Martha Stewart Living Radio SIRIUS channel 112 and XM channel 157, as part of
“The Best of SIRIUS” package.

WHEN: Live broadcast on Thursday, February 5, 2009 from 4:00 – 5:00 pm ET

MORE: At Martha’s Table is a live interview series that airs exclusively on
SIRIUS XM’s Martha Stewart Living Radio. The series features Martha Stewart’s intimate conversations with today’s most influential tastemakers. Recent guests include internationally-acclaimed chefs and restaurateurs Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Mario Batali, Emeril Lagasse, Tom Colicchio and Jamie Oliver.

Anthony Bourdain is a renowned American chef and author who won critical acclaim for his bestselling book, Kitchen Confidential, as well as his culinary and cultural adventure series, No Reservations, on the Travel Channel. He has written eight other books including A Cook’s Tour, Nasty Bits and No Reservations.

Internationally-recognized chef of Le Bernardin in New York City, Eric Ripert is one of America’s top chefs. Eric and Le Bernardin have been awarded the following accolades: four-star rating from the New York Times since three months after it opened in 1986; three-stars from the Michelin Guide; GQ magazine’s “Best Restaurant in America; ” New York magazine’s “#1 Restaurant in New York City;” The Zagat Guide’s “Best Food” award; and The James Beard Foundation’s “Outstanding Restaurant of the Year” and the “Top Chef in New York City.” Eric is also the author of three cookbooks, including this year’s On the Line, a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of a four-star restaurant.

On Martha Stewart Living Radio SIRIUS channel 112 and XM Radio 157, Martha Stewart and her team of lifestyle experts teach, advise and inspire around-the-clock with shows about entertaining, cooking, pet care, gardening, weddings and much more.

Speaking of stew....

This glorious weather (not being sarcastic. I love cold weather) puts me in the mind of soups and stews. I've been on a soup tangent for some time now. I've tried not to inflict it on too many people, but today just SCREAMS soup.

The beutiful thing about soup is that it rarely tastes the same any time you make it. They are among the most forgiving of all dishes -- a little variation in a recipe generally adds character and is rarely a deal-breakers. They don't have the pouty nature of baked goods. They won't crash and burn and dry like chicken or beef, if you get careless.

Soup rules.


This Italian vegetable soup is ready in an hour. For four servings:

3 3/4 cups of water
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound green beans, trimmed and chopped
4 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cubed
14-ounce can of peeled tomatoes, drained
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 minced garlic cloves
4 ounces spaghetti, broken into 2-inch pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
2 tablespons olive oil
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese to serve

Pour all ingredients (except pasta, cheese and olive oil) into a large saucepan and bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add the spaghetti and cook about 12 minutes more or until the pasta is tender.

Serve in bowls topped with some cheese.

Vegetable Soup
If Italian vegetable soup won't work, try this one from Quebec. It's not red or tomato-based, like most vegetable soups, which makes it ideal for folks who can't stomach tomatoes. A few Octobers ago, I had it at a restaurant in Quebec City. Super easy and, agian, four servings ready in less than an hour.

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
5 cups chicken broth or stock
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 celery rib, trimmed and diced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg. yes, nutmeg
4 egg yolks (hang with me)
1 cup heavy cream

Melt the butter, then whisk in the flour and cook over medium heat for about a minute. Add the vegetables and stir. It'll be chunky and pasty. Stir in your cold or room-temperature broth/stock. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks and the cream. Take ladle and put some (1/2 cup) of the hot soup and stir quickly into the cream-egg mixture to 'temper' the egg yolks (you don't want scrambled eggs). Then, just as quickly, whisk the egg-cream-soup mixture back into the full batch of soup. Stir briskly and cook for about 4 minutes until it's heated through.

Top with croutons.

Obama's Inaugural stew

Recipe for President Obama's Inaugural Luncheon

This recipe was provided to the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies by the luncheon's cater, Design Cuisine of Arlington, Va.


6 (1-pound) Maine lobsters
20 medium-size sea scallops
36 large shrimp, peeled, cleaned and tail removed, about 2 pound.
10 (1-ounce) pieces of black cod
1/2 cup finely diced carrots
1/2 cup finely diced celery
1/2 cup finely diced leek
1/2 cup finely diced peeled Idaho potato
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground white pepper or black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 quart heavy cream
1 cup dry vermouth (optional)
10 (5-inch) puff-pastry rounds
10 (3 1/2-inch) terrines or ramekins, or serving dish of your choice

Bring 1 gallon of water to a boil; poach lobsters, then shrimp, then black cod and last scallops. After seafood is cooked, remove from water; reserve water and bring to boil.

Cook all vegetables in liquid that was used for the seafood; remove vegetables when tender. Allow the liquid to continue to boil until only 1 quart of liquid remains. This will be the base for the sauce.

Bring seafood liquid back to a boil and add the vermouth and heavy cream and reduce by half, season with salt, white pepper and nutmeg to taste. You have reached your desired thickness when the sauce will cover the back of a wooden spoon. Set aside to cool.

Cut lobster, shrimp and scallops into bite-sized pieces.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.6. Fold seafood and vegetables into cool sauce, being careful not to mix too much as this will break up the seafood. Scoop mixture into terrines or ovenproof baking dish of your choice.

Cover terrines with puff-pastry rounds, brush them with egg wash and bake them until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving. You can cook this 2-3 hours ahead of time and keep warm at 150 degrees. Makes 10 servings.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Food Network Classes in Atlanta

New Food Network Cooking Classes At The Art Institute of Atlanta Start Jan. 24

Love gourmet meals but need to watch that budget? Sign up for Food Network Cooking Classes at The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Atlanta and you'll find exiting ways to turn your home into a gourmet dining room!

Cooking at home brings families together, gives you new ways to be creative in entertaining friends and neighbors, and offers a cost-saving option you can actually control. Whether you're unsure how to boil water or already have some fundamental cooking skills, you'll find a class to suit you.

Winter offerings include fall favorites such as "How to Boil Water I," "Classic Steakhouse Favorites," "A Night in Tuscany," and "Cupcake Extravaganza." New classes for winter include "Gourmet Meals on a Budget," "Healthy Choices, Big Flavors," "Romantic Dinners," and "Entertaining at Home."

Classes begin Jan. 24 and are from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Eastern time) on Saturdays in The International Culinary School kitchens at The Art Institute of Atlanta.

Food Network Cooking Classes are hands-on workshops geared toward cooks of all experience levels, offering tips and techniques from Food Network's behind-the-scenes team of experts, the Food Network Kitchens. Participants have an opportunity to learn what the pros know and how to cook in a fun, approachable way.

The fee, which includes all ingredients and use of equipment, is $119 per class per person. To help you control your budget, you may want to take advantage of this special offer - purchase three classes and get a fourth class free! For more information or reserve your space, go to or call The Art Institute of Atlanta at 770.689.4764 or 1.800.275.4242, ext. 4764.

White House Chef

President-Elect Barack Obama Selects White House Chef

After much speculation regarding the next White House Chef, Michelle Obama announced Friday that Chef Cristeta Comerford will remain in her current position as White House Chef. Named to the position in 1995 by the Bushes, Comerford is the first female and the first minority to hold the position. Many people thought that a new White House Chef would be appointed because the Obamas have markedly different eating habits than the Bushes.

According to the Huffington Post, "The President who notoriously wouldn't eat anything 'green' or 'wet' is being replaced by one who loves his meals straight from the garden.

While George W. Bush spent his two terms scarfing down BLTs, white-bread grilled cheese sandwiches and burgers (and there's nothing wrong with that, mind you), President-elect Barack Obama will usher in just as big a culinary makeover as a partisan one." (Huffington Post, Nov. 10, 2008)

However, to reduce Comerford's abilities to BLTs and burgers seems a bit narrow.

In addition to the dinners she has put on during her time as White House Chef, Comerford has also trained in hotels in the U.S. and has worked in Vienna, Austria. It seems that in addition to the many formal White House dinners she has organized (and BLTs), she will be quite able to handle vegetables and a low-carbohydrate diet.

The Southern Food and Beverage Museum currently has Cristeta Comerford's chef whites on display in the White House Exhibit.

Mmmm. Strawberries.

Tips for Dipping Strawberries
Save loads of cash by dipping strawberries yourself. It's easy and elegant.

Leave stems and green caps on berries.

To ensure chocolate adheres to berries, make sure strawberries are free of outside moisture. Rinse, drain and carefully pat strawberries with a paper towel until dry.

Be careful. Just one drop of moisture in melted chocolate will cause chocolate to seize (clump and harden).

Chocolate-dipped strawberries are perfect for a romantic evening in, with candlelight and a bottle of wine.

Add multi-colored sprinkles or roll in coconut or chopped nuts to make chocolate-dipped strawberries even more special and delicious.

Winter Strawberry Dessert Pizza
You won't find pepperoni anywhere near this specialty dessert! A cream cheese filling is spread over a sweet crust and topped with glazed strawberries.

1 ½ cups flour
1 cup margarine, softened
½ cup chopped pecans
¼ cup brown sugar

1 (3-ounce) package strawberry gelatin
½ cup sugar
Dash salt
1 cup water (divided use)
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1 ½ pounds Florida strawberries

Filling: 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened ¾ cup powdered sugar 1 (8-ounce) container whipped topping

For crust, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease the bottom of a 12 or 14-inch pizza pan with a small amount of butter or cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine flour, margarine, pecans and brown sugar. Mix well with fork or pastry blender. Spread mixture in pizza pan by gently pressing and spreading dough evenly with palm of hand and fingertips to form a thin crust. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool.

For filling, cream together cream cheese and powdered sugar in a large mixing bowl. Gently fold in whipped topping until thoroughly blended. Spread over cooled crust.
For topping, combine gelatin, sugar, salt and ½ cup of the water in a medium saucepan. Dissolve cornstarch in remaining water. Stir into gelatin mixture. Cook over medium heat until thickened, stirring frequently. Allow topping to cool to room temperature.

Remove caps from strawberries, wash, drain and slice in half lengthwise. Add strawberries to gelatin mixture and place in the refrigerator to chill for about 30 minutes. Spread topping on top of cream cheese layer and chill in a refrigerator for an hour before serving. Makes 10-12 servings.

Short-Cut Method: Crust: Purchase one (18-ounce) tube refrigerated slice-and-bake sugar cookie dough. Bring to room temperature. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove ends of package with a sharp knife and cut open along seam. Remove cookie dough from wrapper and place directly onto a 14 or 16-inch pizza pan. Form a crust directly in pizza pan by gently pressing and spreading dough evenly with palm of hand and fingertips. Bake at 350 degrees for about 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool.

Filling: 1 container (24.3 ounces) ready-to-eat cheesecake filling (brought to room temperature)
When cookie dough crust is thoroughly cooled, top with cheesecake filling mixture as you would a pizza. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes or until chilled.

Note: If a lighter texture is desired, place prepared cheesecake filling in a large mixing bowl and fold in 1 container (8-ounces) whipped topping (thawed). There may be some mixture remaining. Don’t worry. Any leftovers will be a welcomed surprise.

Topping: Prepare topping as noted above. Return to refrigerator to chill an additional hour before serving. Makes 10-12 servings.

Cookoff finalists -- that's Kosher

The Manischewitz Company announces the six (6) finalists chosen to compete in the Third Annual Simply Manischewitz Cook-Off on February 13th at the New York Marriott Marquis. The six finalists were selected from among thousands of entries nationwide to compete LIVE for the chance to win the $25,000 grand prize package including GE Profile Kitchen appliances, cash and more. Mayor Bloomberg has proclaimed Feb. 13 as “Simply Manischewitz Cook-Off Day” in New York City.

Out of the thousands of entries received, the top recipes were selected, tested and chosen by an expert panel of judges which included Sarah Lasry, cookbook author and restaurant owner. Ms. Lasry has written The Dairy Gourmet and owns and operates Tastebuds Café in Howell, NJ. The finalists’ recipes were judged on the following criteria: taste, 50%; ease of preparation, 25%; creativity and originality, 25%.

*The six finalists are:

Erin Eugustou from Brooklyn, NY with her recipe Ruby Red Risotto with Pistachio-Basil Pesto, Garlic-Herb Goat Cheese
Myra Smolev from New York, NY with her recipe Sloppy Moses
Shana Schuman from Chicago, IL with her recipe Meaty Manischtroni
Deborah Leebove from Denver, CO with her recipe Mani Meatloaves
Elise Lalor from Issaquah, WA with her recipe Laced Lamb with Figs
Amy Siegel from Clifton, NJ with her recipe Marvelous Mediterranean Falafel Sliders

The Grand Prize Winner will be selected on site by a panel of prestigious food experts including Todd Coleman, Food Editor, Saveur magazine; Emily Kaiser, Food Associate Editor, Food & Wine magazine; Michael Park,; Armando Monterroso, Executive Chef, Marriott Marquis; and Joy Devor of Rockaway, NY the winner of the 2008 Simply Manischewitz Cook-off.

Cooking with Kosher products and making ethnic creations based on Jewish Heritage is fast becoming one of today’s hottest food trends. According the foremost authority on Kosher Foods, Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz, “The Kosher consumer base is getting younger and stronger and now crosses all ethnic backgrounds.” Finalists selected for the Simply Manischewitz Cook-off include both Kosher and non-Kosher consumers.

“We are extremely excited to announce the six finalists in the Third Annual Simply Manischewitz Cook-Off,” said David Rossi, Vice President of Marketing for the Manischewitz Company. “With the wide range of Manischewitz products and our rich 120 year history, the Manischewitz brands are quickly becoming more of a staple among both mainstream and Kosher consumers. We are finding that many people choose Manischewitz products because of their superior quality, convenience, diversity and taste.”

All ingredients in the competition must be certified kosher and the competition will be overseen by Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz. Rabbi Horowitz represents the OU as Rabbi in charge of Rabbinic supervision for all Manischewitz Company brands.

Roux the day... in a jar

So last night I was watching Alton Brown make gumbo on "Good Eats." He went through his way to make a roux. I've never had that much difficulty, but it brought to mind something I saw in Winn-Dixie the other day: roux in a jar.

I've heard of it, but I've never tried it. The purist in me wants to be against it, but....

Need a shot of warmth? Love this.

Our balmy friends to the south have sent some seafood recipes to share with your honey on Valentine's Day. But they'd be pretty good tonight, too:

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, our thoughts turn to bouquets of red roses, those rich, creamy chocolates in red heart-shaped boxes and romantic dinners. The flowers and candy are easy to decide on but what about that special Valentine’s Day dinner? This year why not plan a romantic dinner around delicious Florida seafood.

Seafood is the perfect choice. It is quick and easy to prepare, flavorful and rich but light enough to allow for a late night of dancing. As an added benefit, seafood is a heart-healthy choice for you and your sweetheart with its high protein and low fat content and Omega-3 benefits. Omega-3 is the fatty-acid that has been linked to lowering the risk of heart attack, breast cancer, prostate cancer and stroke. So enjoy a “guilt free” evening knowing that you are doing something good for your special someone…except for those decadent, rich chocolates, that is.

Keeping with the red color scheme of the day, you can choose a succulent Florida red snapper entree, lobster medallions in a creamy sauce or a wild pink shrimp pasta dish to make the evening memorable.

Pan-seared Florida Snapper with Roasted Red Pepper Chili

4 6-ounce Florida snapper fillets
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
sea salt, to taste
ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup rice flour
2 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons Canola oil

Sprinkle fillets with seasonings then dredge in flour. Melt butter and oil in shallow skillet over medium-high heat; add fillets and cook 3-5 minutes per side until golden brown and cooked through. Remove fillets from skillet and serve with Roasted Red Pepper Chili.
Yield: 4 Servings

Roasted Red Pepper Chili

1 8-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained, chopped
1 tablespoon diced Florida shallots
3 cloves Florida garlic, crushed
1/2 cup white wine
1 tablespoon Florida honey
pinch of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Cook all the ingredients in a large sauté pan for 20 minutes and puree in blender until smooth. Strain for a more refined sauce. Adjust the seasonings and serve hot.

Alfredo Florida Shrimp

1 10-ounce container refrigerated Alfredo sauce
3/4 cup half and half
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1/4 teaspoon pepper, coarse ground
3 cups cooked fettuccine pasta
1 1/2 pounds medium Florida pink shrimp, cooked, peeled, deveined
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

Combine Alfredo sauce, half & half, Parmesan cheese and pepper in large saucepan. Over low heat, bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Add cooked pasta and shrimp; gently stir to combine. To serve, twist fettuccine around fork to make a tight roll and center on plate; top with shrimp and sauce. Garnish with chopped parsley.
Yield: 4 servings

Creamy Lobster Medallions with Wild Rice

1 1/2 cups wild rice, uncooked
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup carrots, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1 cup green onion, chopped
1 10 1/2-ounce can cream of shrimp soup
1/2 cup sherry
1/4 cup butter
hot pepper sauce to taste
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 pounds Florida lobster meat, cooked and sliced

Prepare wild rice per package instructions. While rice is cooking, melt butter in a large saucepan and sauté the carrots, celery and green onion for 3 or 4 minutes. Stir sautéed vegetables into cooked wild rice. Set aside. Combine soup, sherry, butter, and seasonings in a double boiler and heat thoroughly. If sauce gets too thick, add more sherry. Add lobster meat and stir until heated through. On individual plates, arrange lobster slices on wild rice and spoon sauce over. Serve remaining sauce separately.
Yield: 4 servings

To find more Florida seafood recipes and information, visit

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Coming to Your Table on Wednesday

Gray weather has me in a mellow kind of mood. That means soups, stews, chowders and roasted vegetables.

Ergo, a slew of hearty recipes comes your way in Your Table for Wednesday's Anniston Star. If you need something sweet, then Prudence Hilburn is cooking up some lovely praline-inspired desserts. We've also got some perky salads and fine recipes for pork chops.

Enjoy. Life's too short to eat bad food.

Beef is for dinner this weekend

This brings back memories of my days in 4-H ....

State Beef Cook-Off to be Held this Saturday

The Alabama Senior/Junior High State Beef Cook-Off will be this Saturday at the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association building in downtown Montgomery with the judging process starting at 10 a.m. and winners to be announced just after noon.

“I am excited about the overwhelming entries in the junior division and I am looking forward to seeing what this age-group brings to the table,” says Alabama Cattlewomen’s Association President Nancy Dickerson.

Forty-one students from 26 counties across the state will compete for cash prizes. A large capacity microwave oven and $100 will be awarded to the “Best in Beef” winner’s Family & Consumer Sciences classroom for instructional purposes.

The State Beef Cook-Off not only educates students about the nutritional value of beef, but also familiarizes them with various cooking methods and emphasizes safe food handling.

Monday, January 5, 2009

And from the spice fairy....

An earlier post alluded to some of the hot flavor trends expected for 2009. The year, according to spice purveyor McCormick, is going to continue getting more exotic. Whether this is an attempt to lure weak-willed spice junkies like me -- or whether they think Agave nectar will truly go mainstream -- remains to be seen. But their recipe suggestions this year continue to call for more ethnic ingredients. I don't know that polenta's gone mainstream in the South yet (although my grandma used to fix cornmeal mush), but they're trying to nudge us toward bold flavors.

I've used toasted sesame seeds several times in the past few weeks. This recipe was super easy and oh, so hearty. Highly recommended.

Sesame Root Beer Braised Short Ribs with Sweet Potatoes

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 3 1/4 hours

3 pounds boneless beef short ribs, cut into serving-size pieces
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons oil, divided
6 cloves garlic, peeled
2 ribs celery, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
2 medium onions, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks (about 1 1/2 cups)2 medium parsnips, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 bottle (12 ounces) micro-brewed root beer
1/2 cup water
2 beef bouillon cubes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks

Preheat oven to 300°F. Coat short ribs with flour. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in 5-quart Dutch oven or ovenproof saucepot on medium-high heat. Add 1/2 of the short ribs; cook 5 to 10 minutes or until browned on all sides. Remove from Dutch oven. Repeat with remaining short ribs.
Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in Dutch oven on medium heat. Add garlic, celery, onions and parsnips; cook and stir 3 minutes or until lightly browned. Add root beer, water, bouillon cubes, tomato paste, vinegar, bay leaves, 2 teaspoons of the sesame seed, sea salt and pepper. Bring to boil, stirring to loosen browned bits in bottom of Dutch oven. Return short ribs to Dutch oven, stirring to partially cover short ribs in liquid. Cover.

Braise in oven 2 hours. Add sweet potatoes; cover and braise 1 hour longer or until short ribs and sweet potatoes are tender. Skim fat from liquid. Divide short ribs and vegetables among serving bowls. Top each with sauce. Sprinkle short ribs evenly with remaining 1 teaspoon sesame seed.

Nutrition Information Per Serving:
Calories: 652

Sodium: 492 mg
Fat: 48 g
Carbohydrates: 28 g
Cholesterol: 105 mg
Fiber: 4 g
Protein: 27 g

I'm also a fan of brie. Here's a non-traditional way to look at a feisty cheese:

Warm Rosemary Brie Cake with Peach Preserves

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes

1 1/4 cups flour1 teaspoon baking powder1 teaspoon McCormick® Gourmet Collection™ Rosemary, Crushed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar, divided
4 eggs, at room temperature, separated
1/4 cup milk
1 round (8 to 10 ounces) Brie cheese
2/3 cup peach or apricot preserves, at room temperature
Preheat oven to 325°F. Mix flour, baking powder, rosemary and salt in small bowl. Butter and flour 9-inch springform pan. Slice brie evenly into 3 horizontal layers. Place 1 layer, skin-side down, in center of bottom of prepared pan. Cut remaining 2 layers in half. Place, skin-side down, around brie in pan so that most of the bottom of the pan is covered with brie, leaving about 1/2-inch uncovered around edge of inside of pan. Set aside.
Beat butter and 1/4 cup of the sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium-high speed 3 to 4 minutes or until light and fluffy, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Add egg yolks, beat on high speed until well blended, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in 1/2 of the flour mixture, milk then remaining flour mixture on low speed until well blended, scraping sides of bowl occasionally.
Beat egg whites in clean large bowl with electric mixer on high speed 2 minutes or until soft peaks form. Mix remaining 1/2 cup sugar and cream of tartar in small bowl. Gradually beat into egg whites until stiff peaks form. Stir 1/3 of the egg white mixture into egg yolk mixture until well blended. Gently stir or fold in remaining egg white mixture. Pour and spread batter over brie to create an even cake layer.
Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Run small knife or metal spatula around rim of pan to loosen cake. Cool about 30 minutes in pan on wire rack. Remove rim of pan. Spread top of cake evenly with preserves. Serve warm. Refrigerate any leftover cake.

To Make Ahead: Prepare and bake cake as directed above. Cool completely. Cover tightly. Refrigerate. Several hours before serving, remove cake from refrigerator and bring to room temperature. Remove rim of pan. Place cake on baking sheet. Spread top of cake evenly with preserves. Heat in preheated 350°F oven 15 to 20 minutes or until warmed through.
Nutrition Information Per Serving:
Calories: 290

Sodium: 284 mg
Fat: 14 g
Carbohydrates: 34 g
Cholesterol: 110 mg
Fiber: 0 g
Protein: 7 g

A radicc-al salad option

Experts extol the virtues of the colorful fruits and vegetables. The folks at Royal Rose Radicchio have a snappy salad idea.

Radicchio, Spinach & Pear Salad

Makes 8 servings 1/2 head radicchio, cored and chopped

1 10-oz. bag fresh spinach leaves, chopped
3 ripe Bartlett pears, cored and sliced
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
6 ounces crumbled Gorgonzola (or other creamy blue cheese)
1/2 cup caramelized pecans* (or chopped pecans)

Combine chopped radicchio, spinach leaves, sliced Bartlett pear and red onion in a bowl. In small saucepan, heat vinegar and oil gently over medium heat until hot; immediately pour dressing over salad and toss until evenly dressed. Season with salt and pepper, top with crumbled Gorgonzola and caramelized pecans and serve at once.

Caramelized Pecans:

1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 cup pecan halves, lightly toasted

Lightly grease a rimmed cookie sheet. Set aside. In a small saucepan bring sugar and water to a boil. Increase heat to medium-high and cook syrup without stirring until mixture turns golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in pecans, and then spread pecans in a single layer on prepared sheet. Let stand until cool, then break into small pieces. Makes 1 cup. Store covered at room temperature.
*To toast nuts, place on a shallow baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F. for 10 minutes, until fragrant.

Cornbread cooks, wield your skillet

A cast iron skillet, your favorite Martha White Cornbread Mix, and a dash of creativity could bring you the $5,000 First Prize in the 2009 National Cornbread Cook-Off. Entries for original main dish cornbread recipes are now being accepted until Feb. 28, 2009, by The National Cornbread Festival for its 13th Annual Cook-Off, sponsored by Martha White and Lodge Cast Iron.
Ten finalists will compete during the National Cornbread Festival and create their original cornbread specialties under the Big Cook-Off Tent on April 25 in South Pittsburg, Tenn. One lucky winner will be chosen as the reigning cornbread champion and receive $5,000 and a 30-inch stainless steel gas range (a $2,500 value) from Five Star Professional Cooking Equipment, a division of Brown Stove Works, Inc.
“Every year I am amazed at the creativity of the cornbread recipes that are submitted from all regions of the country,” said Linda Carman, Martha White baking expert. “We’ve gotten recipes inspired by ethnic cuisines from all over the world, and some of the most popular have been the recipes with a Mexican, TexMex, or Southwestern flair to them. The flavorful ingredients typical of TexMex cooking, paired with cornbread, have always been favorites with entrants and judges.”
In 2003, the trend began to heat up with the winning White Chicken Chili with Cheddar Hush Puppy Crust recipe. In 2005, South-of-the Border Chicken Fiesta took second place. And, in 2007, it was Southwest-inspired Chicken Taco Cornbread Wedges with Ranchero Cilantro Drizzle (find recipe at that came out on top.
To qualify for the National Cornbread Cook-Off this year, an entry must be an original main dish recipe and prepared with at least one package of Martha White® Cornbread Mix using Lodge® Cast Iron cookware. Entries must also include contestant’s name, address, daytime phone number, date of birth, and name of grocery retailer.
To enter online, go to the “Promotion and News” section at, and submit your original recipe along with complete contact information.
To enter by e-mail, send your original recipe along with your complete contact information to Online and e-mail entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. CST on Feb. 28, 2009.
To enter by mail, send your original recipe and complete contact information on an 8 1/2 x 11-inch paper to: National Cornbread Cook-Off 2009, 209 Seventh Avenue North, Nashville, TN 37219. Mail-in entries must be postmarked by Feb. 28 and received by March 6.
Ten finalists will be chosen from all entries.
For past winning recipes and complete contest rules, visit or

Cash and Prizes
The Cook-Off grand champion will win a $5,000 cash prize and a 30-inch stainless steel gas range (a $2,500 value) from Five Star® Professional Cooking Equipment, a division of Brown Stove Works, Inc., and special gifts from Martha White and Lodge® Cast Iron.
The second prize winner will walk away with $1,000, the third prize winner with $600. The remaining seven finalists will each be awarded $100. All finalists will receive $500 travel reimbursement and gifts courtesy of Martha White and Lodge® Cast Iron.
Sponsored by Martha White Foods, Inc., Lodge Manufacturing Company, and Brown Stove Works, Inc. Open to legal residents of the United States and D.C., 18 years or older, except food professionals, such as chefs, food writers, or food home economists who create recipes for pay. Void outside the 50 United States and D.C. and where prohibited.

White Chicken Chili with Cheddar Hushpuppy Crust

1 tablespoon Crisco Pure Olive Oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium green pepper, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 (19 oz.) can cannellini beans (white kidney beans)
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 (14 oz.) can chicken broth
1 (4.5 oz.) can mild green chilies, drained

1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
1(6 oz.) pkg. Martha White Cotton Country Cornbread Mix
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
Sour cream, salsa, chopped cilantro (optional)

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Heat oil over medium heat in a 10 1/2 - inch Lodge cast iron skillet. Add 1 cup onion, garlic, green pepper, cumin and chili powder; sauté about 3 to 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add remaining filling ingredients; simmer about 10 minutes.

Beat egg in medium bowl. Add milk, butter and cornbread mix; mix well. Stir in 1/4 cup onion and cheese. Pour over chicken chili in skillet.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until cornbread is golden brown. Top with sour cream, salsa, and/or cilantro, if desired.

6 servings

South of the Border Chicken Fiesta

1/4 cup butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 (6 oz.) pkgs. Southwestern seasoned fully cooked chicken strips
1 (10 3/4 oz.) can nacho cheese condensed soup
1/2 cup sour cream
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (4 oz.) can chopped green chilies, divided
1 (7 oz.) pkg. Martha White Sweet Yellow Cornbread Mix
3/4 cup Mexican style shredded cheese
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup cream style corn
1 large egg

Shredded lettuce, sour cream, salsa, Mexican style shredded cheese to garnish.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Melt butter in a 10 1/2 - inch Lodge® cast iron skillet. Add onion and garlic; cook until tender. Transfer to medium bowl; set aside.

Wipe skillet with paper towel. Combine chicken, soup, sour cream, beans and 4 tablespoons of the chilies in skillet; stir until blended.

Add cornbread mix, cheese, milk, corn, egg and remaining chilies to bowl with cooked onions and garlic; stir until blended. Spread cornbread mixture over chicken filling.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until cornbread topping is golden brown. (Place foil or pan on lower rack, in case filling bubbles over.) Cut into wedges; garnish each slice with shredded lettuce, sour cream salsa and cheese.

8 servings

When snacks go pop

My 6-year-old doesn't usually eat much. She'll eat anything, mind you, but she's a bit on the wee side and therefore doesn't require a whole lot to fill her up.

The exception: popcorn. The child will eat popcorn until it comes out her ears and her midsection resembles a thermometer that has been stuffed with a beach ball. I'm always on the lookout for things to enliven popcorn. It's never been my favorite, but the little ones devour it.

Among some suggestions from The Popcorn Board:

Cinnamon Chocolate Popcorn

3 quarts popped popcorn
Butter-flavored cooking spray
9 T. powdered cocoa mix (cocoa sweetened with sugar or sugar substitute)
3 tsp. cinnamon

Put popcorn in a large bowl and lightly spray with cooking spray.
Sprinkle cocoa mix and cinnamon on popcorn. Toss to coat evenly.
Spray and toss again until mixture is well coated. Serve immediately.

Ahh, roasted

Maybe it's the gray day, but something roasted sounds fabulous for dinner tonight.

Roasting is simply the act of cooking something by surrounding it with dry heat (oven, in this case), uncovered. The heat penetrates, slow and steady, the surface of the meat and then finishes off the cooking process by browning or caramelizing the surface. You can bake something in the oven, covered, but the trapped moisture will steam-bake your food -- not give it a good roast, which needs that dry air swirling about.

Roasting works great on beef and poultry. We had a fabulous rib roast for our Christmas dinner, and roasted chicken is always a hit. The folks at the National Chicken Council have a few suggestions to pass along for roasting the bird:

To roast meat or vegetables means to cook them dry, at a high heat. With no added liquid in the dish, the natural sugars in the meat or vegetables caramelize, forming the crunchy crust that seals in moisture. Roasted meats like chicken are no-fail on doneness when cooked to temperature; a meat thermometer should read 180 degrees when inserted near the thigh bone, or 170 degrees when inserted into breast meat. (Make sure you don't touch a bone, though, or you'll get a false reading.)

When roasting meats like chicken, the natural moistures are forced to the center by the high heat. To redistribute those juices throughout, let the chicken “rest,” or sit at room temperature, for a few minutes before serving. (All those folks who carve into a turkey or rib roast just out of the oven are rewarded with a geyser of juice on the platter.... and dry meat on their plates.)

From the National Chicken Council and U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, here are two new recipes that feature roast chicken. One uses a pre-cooked, rotisserie chicken to make a delicious salad; the other is a new way to roast at home.

Cuban-style Gingered Chicken is made with the easiest-to-cook, and perhaps most impressive-looking, piece of chicken available: the whole bird. Marinate a four to six pound chicken in a Cuban-influenced blend of ginger, garlic, allspice, cinnamon, cumin, brown sugar, chicken broth, lime juice, orange juice, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. Place in hot oven and roast, cooking to the 180 degree temperature in the deepest part of the thigh. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro before serving. This chicken dish works well with a side serving of rice and a green vegetable.

Cuban-Style Gingered Chicken

Serves 4

1 whole chicken, 4 – 6 pounds

2 TBLS finely minced ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp allspice
½ tsp cinnamon
2 tsps ground cumin
2 TBLS brown sugar
¼ cup chicken broth
2 TBLS lime juice
½ cup orange juice
1 TBLS Worcestershire sauce
2 tsps hot sauce
¼ cup finely chopped cilantro
2 tsps salt
1 tsp black pepper

In small bowl, combine all marinade ingredients.

Place chicken in large plastic bag, such as an oven roasting bag. Pour marinade over chicken. Seal bag and place in refrigerator 8 hours to overnight, turning occasionally to ensure even distribution of marinade.

Remove chicken from refrigerator 30 minutes prior to cooking to bring to room temperature. Preheat oven to 350 F.

Remove chicken from marinade and place, breast side up, in a roasting pan. Dispose of leftover marinade. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Place chicken in hot oven and roast 20 minutes per pound, or approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes for a four pound chicken. When done, internal temperature of the chicken at the thickest part of the thigh will read 180 F. Remove chicken from oven and rest for 10 minutes before carving. Serve sprinkled with minced cilantro.

Nutrition Information, Per Serving:
670 calories; 37 g fat; 10 g saturated fat; 4 g carbohydrate; 75 g protein

A tasty entrée salad, Roast Chicken and Beet Salad is light in flavor and beautiful in color. Start by roasting beets in a hot oven; when cooled, slice to a half-inch thickness. While the beets are cooking, assemble the rest of the salad by slicing pieces of white and dark meat from a pre-cooked, rotisserie chicken, and tossing together slices of fennel, Belgian endive, shallot, parsley and segments of canned mandarin oranges. Make a vinaigrette dressing by combining lemon juice, red wine vinegar, sugar, anchovy paste, capers, salt, pepper and olive oil. For presentation, layer the salad by placing the beets on a plate or serving platter, top with the greens tossed with vinaigrette, and placing chicken slices on over all.

Roast Chicken and Beet Salad

Serves 4

2 cups roasted chicken (pre-cooked rotisserie), sliced

1 TBLS olive oil
1 pound beets, washed and trimmed

1 fennel bulb, cut into thin slices
2 Belgian endive, cut into thin rings
1 shallot, cut into thin rings
1 can (15 oz) mandarin oranges, drained
1 ½ cups parsley leaves

3 TBLS fresh lemon juice
1 TBLS red wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp anchovy paste
1 TBLS capers, drained
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
6 tsps olive oil

Preheat oven to 350. Place beets on piece of foil, drizzle with olive oil and wrap up in the foil. Place on baking sheet and roast in hot oven for 1 hour, or until tender. Remove from oven and cool. Slice beets thinly.

While beets are roasting, combine all ingredients for dressing, except olive oil, in small bowl and set aside. In large serving bowl, combine all ingredients for salad.

When ready to serve, whisk olive oil into dressing and combine well. Toss two-thirds of vinaigrette with salad ingredients. Place beets on top of salad. Top with slices of chicken. Drizzle remaining salad dressing over chicken slices.

Nutrition Information, Per Serving:
420 calories; 16 g fat; 3 g saturated fat; 47 g carbohydrate; 27 g protein

New flavors for a new year

By now it might be clear to some Star Bite readers that I'm a spice junky. Well, the spice fairy came from McCormick last week and had some cool stuff in it: garam masala, which was rubbed into some pork chops, and a three-peppercorn medley that was beautiful to look at and sniff.

One thing I've discovered as I've become more adventurous (and I realize my 'adventurous' would probably kill some people of the "chicken fingers only" mentality) is that I've sharply reduced the amount of salt I put in food. You know how the nutrition/health gurus say that using herbs and spices can eliminate some of the need for salt infusion? Turns out, they were right. I like to think that by playing with other spices, I've taken salt use back to its intent: a seasoning that enhances the flavors of foods but one that does not provide a prominent note in a dish.

Herb treasures found in the garden this past week included some flat-leaf parsley that's still chugging along and sorrel that's going into soup this weekend.