Four Cooking Kits Helps Hone Home Kitchen Skills in Young Chefs

The Unicorn Cookie Cups Baking Kit by The Cookie Cups, which comes in a pretty pink box with pink cooking equipment and packaging inside, is the fun at-home baking experience for children three and up to do with a parent or older sibling. The 17-piece kit makes .24 mini size cookie cups and contains the following: 1 apron, 1 measuring cup, 1 silicone baking pan, 1 mini scoop, 24 mini cupcake liners, 1 unicorn horn mold, 1 unicorn plate, 1 whisk, flour, sugar, sweet Belgian chocolate chunks, white chocolate, pink sprinkle mix, pink powder, marshmallows, and vanilla frosting.

One of several kits from the designed to inspire young children there’s also kits for making pizza, pretzel making kit, and their Rainbow Ravioli Making Kit. The latter is an 18-piece set containing the following:

1 Apron, 1 Measuring Cup, 1 Ravioli Stamp, 1 Spatula, 1 Kid Friendly Dough Cutter, 1 Rolling Pin, 1 Silicone Baking Mat, 1 Ravioli Flour, 3 Ravioli Colored Powders, 1 Cinnamon, 1 Dried Fruit Mix, 1 Sweet Dipping Sauce, 1 Dried Spinach, 1 Dried Tomato, 1 Garlic & Herbs, 1 Gourmet Marinara Dipping Sauce. 

 The Cookie Cups, a bakery that sells gourmet cookies in the shape of mini cupcake(s), was created and is owned by self-described serial-entrepreneur  Nicole Pomije. The kits are, in ways, a magical way to learn to cook and have funny farm. After all, who doesn’t love unicorns and rainbow ravioli?

www.thecookiecups.com/

Tara Teaspoon: Delicious Gatherings

I love cookbooks, whether they’re old or new and I’m always looking for those that offer recipes for what’s available from local farms and also using ingredients that I want to learn more about. And my friend Carrie Bachman sent me a cookbook that covers both. It’s by Tara “Teaspoon” Bench, a former Martha Stewart food editor and food stylist, and is titled “Delicious Gatherings: Recipes to Celebrate Together.”

It offers new recipes for many of the fruits already available and soon to be: blueberries, grapes and apples as well as quinoa. I have several packages of Ancient Harvest’s Quinoa with Sea Salt, Quinoa & Brown Rice with Garlic, and Inca Red Quinoa so I was happy to find Tara Teaspoon’s Grape and Feta Quinoa recipe.

Bench offers complete meals in her new cookbook but also says that the menus are created so that home chefs can pick and choose singular recipes, just a few or all of them to create the meal they want. There are more than 120 recipes which are divided into four main sections: “Main Events,” “Serious Sides,” Breakfast and Brunch,” and “Baking and Sweets.”

“Bringing my cooking expertise to print and online articles taught me how to clearly share my recipes and knowledge with every kind of cook,” said Bench who also has a blog, tarateaspoon.com. “I know how to create recipes with easy steps so everyone at home can be successful in the kitchen.”

Waldorf Salad With Radicchio and Buttermilk Dressing

SERVES 6 TO 8

Makes ¾  Cups Dressing

Hands-On Time: 25 Minutes

Total Time: 30 Minutes

“Really, the resemblance to classic Waldorf salad is just the combo of apples, celery, and grapes—but I just love that one of my favorite salads heralded from New York City, where I live. I’m paying a little homage to its history,” writes Bench. “With shaved apple, flavorful radicchio, and a light, savory buttermilk dressing, this updated version of Waldorf salad is elegant and welcoming. I made a tangy buttermilk herb dressing and opted for delicious, candied pecans instead of walnuts.”

Candied Pecans

  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • ¾ cup (3 ounces) pecans

Buttermilk Dressing

  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, plus more for garnish
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Pinch black pepper

Salad

  • 1 small head or half a large head
  • radicchio (10 ounces)
  • 1 apple, cored and cut in half
  • 3 ribs celery, sliced on the bias
  • 1 ½ cups California red grapes, sliced in half

For the pecans: Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside. In a small skillet over medium heat, bring maple syrup and cayenne to a boil. Boil 1 minute, and then add pecans. Stir to coat and cook another 30 seconds. Turn onto lined baking sheet and separate nuts. Set aside and let cool completely. When cool, coarsely chop.

For the dressing: Whisk together all ingredients and set aside in the refrigerator.

For the salad: Break or chop radicchio into pieces. Use a mandoline or slicer to thinly slice apple. Arrange radicchio, apple, celery, and grapes in a bowl, then top with chopped pecans. You can toss with the dressing and extra parsley at this point, or you can serve the salad with the dressing and parsley on the side so guests can dress their own salad.

TARA’S TIP

Radicchio is a very strong, sometimes bitter leafy vegetable. I think it’s fantastic with tangy buttermilk and yogurt. But if you want a milder salad, opt for butter lettuce leaves.

Grape and Feta Quinoa

Serves: 6 To 8

Makes: 4 cups

Hands-on time: 15 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes

“This is my favorite grain salad with all the crunchy nuts, salty feta, herbs, and juicy grapes,” Bench wrote about this recipe.

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup (6 ounces) grapes, halved
  • 2/3 cup (3 ounces) crumbled feta
  • 1/3  cup (1 ounce) walnuts, toasted and broken up
  • 1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

DRESSING

  • Grated zest from 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

To cook quinoa, rinse in a fine mesh strainer until the water runs clear. Transfer to a medium saucepan with water and salt. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, uncovered, until quinoa is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

While quinoa cooks, make dressing by whisking together all dressing ingredients. Set aside.

When quinoa is cool, add grapes, feta, walnuts, and parsley. Toss with dressing and serve. Quinoa can be refrigerated for up to a day.

Blueberry Bannock Scone

 Makes: 8 servings, 1 (9-inch) scone

Hands-on time: 30 minutes

Total time: 1 hour

“Traditional Scottish Bannock cakes are baked on a griddle, but I make a simple one in the oven to serve the whole family. I’ve added wheat germ instead of whole wheat flour to give the quick bread a nutty but light texture, and finely chopped pecans add amazing flavor,” she wrote in the intro to this recipe. “I’ve stuffed my Bannock with blueberries, which takes an extra step to get them nestled in a layer, but it’s well worth it when you slice into a molten-berry middle! My biggest tip is to use a gentle hand and not overwork the dough.”

SCONE

  • 1 ¼ cups (160 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for baking sheet
  • ½ cup finely chopped pecans
  • ½ cup wheat germ
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon fine salt
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 5 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, cut up and chilled
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs, divided
  • 1 ¼ cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 teaspoon water

ICING

  • ¾ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons milk

For the scone: Heat oven to 400.F. Use the top of a bowl to draw an 8- or 9-inch circle on a piece of parchment paper as a guide. Set aside on a baking sheet.

In a large bowl, combine flour, pecans, wheat germ, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and 4 tablespoons sugar. Use a pastry blender to cut butter into flour mixture until mixture forms small crumbs with tiny bits of butter.

In another bowl, combine buttermilk and 1 egg. Add to flour mixture and stir until just moistened. Dough will seem wet and sticky but work it as little as possible.

Divide dough in half and use two spoons to dol lop half the dough around the circle marked on the prepared baking sheet. With floured hands, shape the dollops into one circle. Spread blueberries evenly over the scone, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar.

Using spoons again, dollop remaining dough over blueberries, then with floured hands press together to make a top layer, covering the berries.

Beat remaining egg with water and brush some on top of the scone. Score into 8 wedges on top. Bake until scone is golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.

For the icing: Stir together confectioners’ sugar and milk to make a thick icing. When scone is almost cool, drizzle with icing.

Spoon batter over blueberries, then gently press together to form the top of the scone, sealing the edges around the blueberries.

Apple Pudding Cake with Butter Sauce

Serves: 12 to 14

Hands-on time: 40 minutes

Total time: 2 hours, 55 minutes

“This rich cake, reminiscent of the dense steamed puddings my grandma used to make, is our family Christmas dessert—although we’ve been known to make it year-round, especially during peak apple season. It’s subtly spiced and full of the tart and sweet taste of apples, plus crunchy pecans. To make the cake even more special for the holidays, top with Apple Crisps.

“You may think adding the sauce is gilding the lily, as the cake on its own is delicious. But in my opinion, the sauce is essential and makes each bite of cake extra divine.”

Apple Pudding Cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • 4 cups grated apple, any variety, from 3 to 4 cored apples
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
  • 2 cups granulated sugar, plus more for pan
  • 2 large eggs

Butter Sauce

  • ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ cups (12-ounce can) evaporated milk
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

For the cake: Heat oven to 350.F. Brush a 10- or 12-cup Bundt pan generously with extra butter. Sprinkle pan with extra sugar, then tap out excess. Set pan aside.

Stir together flour, pecans, nutmeg, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a food processor or with a box grater, shred apples with the skin on. You should have 4 cups grated apple.

In a mixer, cream together butter and sugar with the paddle attachment. Add eggs and beat until mixture is fluffy. Stir in apples (and any juice they produce) and flour mixture until completely combined. Spoon batter into prepared pan and smooth top.

Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean and cake pulls slightly away from the sides of the pan, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Tent cake with foil for the last half hour of baking to prevent overbrowning.

Let cool on a wire rack, about 20 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack to remove from pan. Let cool completely.

For the butter sauce: In a saucepan over medium-low heat, simmer all butter sauce ingredients, stirring, for 12 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Sauce will thicken as it cools. Serve the sauce warm over slices of cake or serve sauce on the side and let guests add a generous amount of warm sauce to each slice of cake.

Garnish with apple crisps, if desired.

NOTE The cake and sauce can be made a day in advance. Allow both to cool completely before storing. Cover cake with plastic wrap and store at room temperature. Refrigerate butter sauce and reheat in microwave or saucepan to serve.

TARA’S TIP

I make this cake in a fun tube pan for the wow factor at the holidays, but it bakes perfectly in a 9-by-13- inch cake pan. Bake about 35 minutes.

Apple Crisps

2 apples

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Heat oven to 250.F. Thinly slice apples using a mandoline. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silpat liner.

Use a sieve to lightly dust both sides of each slice with confectioners’ sugar.

Bake one to two hours, turning apples over once during baking. To test doneness, remove one slice and let it cool. It will be crispy when cooled, and the apples will be done.

Remove from oven and quickly transfer apples to a wire rack and let cool.

The recipes above are courtesy of ‘”Delicious Gatherings: Recipes to Celebrate Together by Tara ‘Teaspoon’ Bench.” Photo by Ty Mecham.

Celebrate with Babs: Holiday Recipes & Family Traditions from the TikTok Grandma

              Barbara Costello didn’t do social media when she first helped her daughter by posting a cooking video on TikTok.

              “I thought TikTok was all about dancing,” says Costello, the mother of four and grandmother of eight, who is known as Grandma Babs. Her first post was in April 2020 during the pandemic. Nine months later she had 200,000 followers. Now it’s closing in on two million.

              “By the time we hang up, you’ll probably have 20,000 more followers,” I tell Costello who is in the car with her daughter, Liz Ariola, on their way to a book signing.

              I’m only half joking.

Soaring Numbers

              Besides TikTok followers on her Brunch with Babs site, Costello also has 660,000 followers on Instagram. In comparison, I have 1989. Not that I’m jealous.

              Costello, who is 73, is considered a granfluencer—a growing trend of older people who are kicking it on social media. And now she has a cookbook, “Celebrate with Babs: Holiday Recipes & Family Traditions” featuring one hundred of her tried and true handwritten recipes that she pulled from her wood recipe box.

              “I started collecting recipes before the internet,” she says. “You used to go over to someone’s house for dinner and leave with recipe cards of what was served that night.”

              The book is divided by holidays and celebrations which are a big deal in the Costello family.

              “We’re Italian and we like big noisy get-togethers,” she says. “My mom was one of nine and I have 21 first cousins. Even after Bill and I got married there were so many of us that we still sat at the children’s table when everyone got together.”

              Originally from the Chicago area, Costello taught middle school in Schaumburg before the family moved, ending up in Connecticut where they’ve lived for decades. Costello opened her own pre-school (they called them nursery schools back then) in the basement of her house. She thinks the skills she learned as a teacher and administrator are part of what connects her to her audience. And she is all about connections.

              “I still get invited to the weddings of my preschoolers,” she says. “And many of them have remained friends with their pre-school classmates and they’re at the weddings. I think that’s wonderful after all those years.”

              Costello describes herself as having gone from zero to 60 miles-per-hour.

              “I never expected this,” she says. “People ask me if I have a business plan and I say what’s that? I’m making it up along the way.”

              It was Ariola who got her mom in the business. Social media savvy, Ariola writes the popular mom blog Mrs. Nipple blog (get it—aureole/ariola) and asked her mom for help during her pregnancy. Despite morning sickness, Ariola was trying to launch a TikTok channel and got her mom to agree to film three videos while her two grandchildren were napping.

              The first video showing Costello making her grandmother’s Greek chicken recipe garnered 100,000 views. Somewhere along the line, one of her viewers was a cookbook editor. The rest, as they say, is history.

              Even though the book is divided into holidays, each section with a special memory or anecdote, Costello says they recipes are good for everyday as well.

              “Recipes are recipes,” she says. In other words, you don’t have to wait until Easter to make marinated leg of lamb, apricot glazed ham, or Grandma’s Easter Bread.

Bonding Over Meals

              Even though she was a working mom, Costello always made family meals.

              “People didn’t do fast food like they do now,” she says. “And I think it’s very important for families to eat together.”

              Indeed, one of her hopes for her cookbook and her social media popularity is that it will encourage people to cook more and enjoy dinner together. In the meantime, she’s going to keep cooking.

              “My mom is always over the top when it comes to celebrations,” says Ariola, noting her mother’s tendency to make way too much food.

              “Being raised in an Italian family,” says Costello, “ I learned that the worst thing that could happen is that there wasn’t enough food to feed everyone.”

              That certainly won’t happen on her watch.

Smash Cake

“I always look forward to our grandkids’ first birthdays,” writes Costello. “My daughter loves showering her sons with smash cakes when they have that special birthday. She strips them down and lets them go at the cake. It’s a ton of fun to see how their little personalities shine in this moment. This is not only the favorite of my one-year-old grandson Scooter, but also a hit with my toddler-aged grandkids, too. Even I love it! I’ve made this recipe as just a loaf when not celebrating a special one-year-old in the family. The cream cheese frosting and the cake are the perfect combo.”

prep time

15 minutes, plus 2 hours to cool

cook time

50 minutes

yield

1 smash cake plus 1 loaf (serves about 9)

Ingredients

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 (4 oz containers unsweetened applesauce
  • 1¾ cups  all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of fine kosher salt

Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 8 oz  cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Natural food coloring (optional)

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and line 2 (4-inch) ramekins or cake pans, and 1 (9 x 5-inch) loaf pan with parchment paper.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the maple syrup and applesauce. Beat until well combined.

3. Using a fine-mesh sieve, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt into the wet mixture. Stir until combined. Spoon the mixture into the ramekins until three-fourths full. Pour the rest of the batter into the loaf pan.

4. Bake the smash cakes for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Bake the loaf for an additional 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let stand for 15 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.

5. Make the frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter until well combined. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat until smooth and creamy, scraping the side of the bowl once or twice during mixing. If desired, beat in a few drops of natural food coloring of your choice.

6. To assemble the smash cake, place the bottom half on a serving plate. Spoon frosting over. Add the remaining layer. Spread frosting over the top and side of the cake. Add decorations of your choice. To serve the loaf, spread the top and sides with frosting, and cut into slices to serve.

Broccoli Salad (from the Summer Barbecue chapter)

This easy, crisp, classic vegetable salad is a must at any summer barbecue, picnic, or pool party. This is an old recipe I’ve been making for over forty years. The flavors meld beautifully, and the fresh crispness of the veggies, the creaminess of the dressing, and the ease of making it ahead, make this recipe a winner in all categories.

prep time

15 minutes, plus at least 1 hour to chill

cook time

none

serves

8–10

Ingredients

  • 2 bunches of raw broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets (about 8 cups)
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 lb. crisp, crumbled bacon
  • ½ cup chopped, toasted pecans or walnuts
  • 1 cup golden or brown raisins
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  1. In a large bowl, mix the broccoli, onion, bacon, nuts, and raisins.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, sugar, and vinegar.
  3. Toss the dressing with the broccoli mixture. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Sur La Table’s Summer Cooking Series for Kids and Teens

Aspiring junior chefs can up their cooking skills this summer by enrolling in Sur La Table’s Summer Series, an assortment of cooking classes available online and in-person, designed for kids and teens. The four and five day series include Bake Shop, Open Your Own Restaurant, and Cooking Adventure and are taught by Sur La Table’s exceptionally well-trained and experience. The small-sized classes ensure that young chefs have plenty of active participation.

The complete kids and teens schedule is available online now here for June-August 2022 and enrollment is now open. Online classes start at just $29 per class and in-person classes start at $249.00 for a 5-Day series. Young cooks can explore menus full of exciting discoveries, from how to prepare favorite dishes to new twists on classic dessert. Classes are about two to two-one-half hours each. Class size is limited to 16.

In-person classes

Kids’ 5-Day Summer Series: Cooking Adventure

Kids’ 5-Day Summer Series: Bakeshop

Kids’ 5-Day Summer Series: Chef School

Kids’ 4-Day Summer Series: Chef School

Teens’ 5-Day Summer Series: Open Your Own Restaurant

Teens’ 5-Day Summer Series: Baking Workshop

Teens’ 5-Day Summer Series: The Academy Of Cuisine

Teens’ 4-Day Summer Series: The Academy Of Cuisine

Sample class menus include:

Kids’ 5-Day Summer Series: Bakeshop

Day 1: Sweet Treats

Cake Pops

Fruit Gummies

Day 2: Playing with Dough

Banana Bread

Cheesy Garlic Bubble Bread

Homemade Butter

Day 3: Smart Cookie

Decorated Sugar/Shortbread Cookie

Drop Cookie

Skillet Cookie

Day 4: Take the Cake

Bake Cupcakes

Mix Fillings and Frostings

Create Decorations

Practice Piping Techniques

Day 5: Bake Your Own Creation

Use surprise ingredients to craft your own recipe.

Teens’ 5-Day Summer Series: The Academy of Cuisine

Day 1: All About the Apps

Vietnamese Fresh Rolls with Dipping Sauce

Caprese Bruschetta

Mexican Street Corn Dip

Day 2: Savory Starches

Pad Thai

Gnocchi with Fresh Tomato Sauce

No-Knead Bread with Homemade Butter

Day 3: Power Up with Protein

Chicken Parm with Homemade Pasta

Carne Asada Tacos with Homemade Tortillas

Veggie Fried Rice

Day 4: Living the Sweet Life

Fruit Galette

Roasted Strawberry Ice Cream

Profiteroles with Chocolate Sauce

Day 5: Make Your Own Menu

Create recipes using surprise ingredients!

Please note, Sur La Table is taking serious COVID-19 protocols for in-person events for the safety of their guests and masks are required at all times in stores. In-person classes are offered in all store locations.

Yumna Jawad: Feel Good Foodie

          Spoiled by her mom’s cooking and too tired to cook herself after working all day Yumna Jawad decided after getting married to change all that. Calling her mom—there was no Facetime back then–Jawad would have her stay on the phone and tell her step by step how to make a meal. It took just two weeks and from there Jawad, who moved to Kalamazoo, and now lives in Grand Rapids, used her new skills not only to cook for her family but as a springboard to creating Feel Good Foodie, her healthy, quick, and creative food blog. She also keeps an active Instagram account with three million followers.

          I came across her blog when researching healthy recipes since I’ve moved on during the pandemic from trying all those dessert recipes I’ve been clipping and saving for years and was very impressed. Besides recipes, she also offers nutritional information, substitutions, how to videos, how long does it take to make the recipe and links to similar recipes. So I emailed Jawad and she responded within ten minutes even though it was late at night but then judging by how often she updates her blog, she may not sleep much if at all.

          It turns out that she worked in Branding and Research & Marketing for consumer packaged foods and the retail food industry and eight years ago began sharing recipes on her Instagram account. She now has over two million followers which is pretty amazing. I have like 2000. Her blog has 400,000 visitors a month. So I asked her why she thought she was so successful.

          “When I first started sharing recipes on social media, my photos were all taken on an iPhone and it was always the meals I made that day for myself or my family,” she says. “The food wasn’t styled or edited, but it was easy and approachable. I think it resonated with a lot of people seeking ways to eat healthier that was attainable and easy-to-manage. And when others tried recreating my recipes, they had similar results without ‘Pinterest fails’. That encouraged them to try more and share more, which I believe helped me establish credibility in my brand and recipes. And all of that was before I even knew that I was even building a health and wellness brand.”

The Flavors of the World

           Jawad has an international background that adds to the creativity of her recipes. She was born in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo and also lived in Sierra Leone until age 11. When Civil War broke out there, the family moved to Dearborn, Michigan. After marrying, she and her husband, a cardiologist, moved several times as well before ending up in Kalamazoo and now Grand Rapids  She first learned to cook traditional Lebanese food but now has exponentially expanded her repertoire but there’s often a Middle East/Mediterranean aspect to her recipes because of their focus on vegetables and healthy ingredients.

          Her culinary inspirations, besides her mother include Ina Garten of Barefoot Contessa fame.      

          “While not all of Ina’s recipes are low calories/low fat, I love her realness, approachability, and passion for cooking,” says Jawad. “She inspires me to be who I am and allow that passion to come through with my recipes without any fluff.”

          Curtis Stone is also another food idol because, she says, he is all about eating unprocessed and unpackaged foods as much as possible, which is actually healthier and cheaper.

          “This is something that I focus so much on with my wholesome home-cooked meals,” she says.

          And because, as the mother of two children, she likes meals that are quick to prepare, she’s a fan of Rachel Ray.

          “Rachel rally popularized the idea of 30 minute meals that made home cooking so accessible for so many people; and that is directly in line with my thinking,” says Jawad.

          Currently she adds three recipes a week to her blog—meals she’s been making for her family since she learned to cook 12 years ago. Some are inspired by tradition, others by watching cooking shows, reading food magazines, and following social media and focuses on new approaches creating healthy wholesome meals.

          “This includes, for example, trends like quinoa crust breadsticks, or cauliflower pizza or sweet potato toast,” says Jawad. “I keep up with the latest trends and test new ideas myself and then add my own twist to them, usually by making the prep easier or by swapping some ingredients to personalize the recipe.”

Recipe Data Base

          She’s also adding to the recipe data base on her blog.

          For those who wonder how to incorporate new foods into their kitchen repertoire, she has some tips. When she used to discover new produce at farmers’ markets, she’d ask the grower for suggestions. Now, Jawad uses the vegetables or fruits in a way that makes it more connected to what  she knows.

          “I recommend experimenting with it in a way that you normally eat other similar foods,” she says. “For instance, since rutabaga is a root vegetable, I would prepare it similar in a similar way to other root vegetables by roasting it because I know I would naturally enjoy that more than steaming it. I would also recommend trying something new in smaller quantities and having others to share it with. It makes the process more enjoyable to try a new ingredient or recipe with other taste testers. When it comes to kids, the same advice applies. But also, I strongly recommend having kids help in the purchase and preparation of ingredients. It gets them more excited about what they make because they feel more invested in the process. When all else fails, mask it in a smoothie or blended soup.”

The following recipes are courtesy of Yumna Jawad.

Chicken Lemon Orzo Soup

  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 onion diced
  • 3 large carrots peeled, halved lengthwise and finely sliced
  • 3 celery stalks small diced
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon butter or olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 3/4 cup orzo pasta
  • 1/8 teaspoon turmeric optional
  • Juice of 1-2 lemons to taste
  • Fresh parsley

Place chicken and scraps from the outer layers and end of the onions, carrots, and celery along with a couple bay leaves in a large stock pot. Add bay leaves and 8-10 cups water and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until chicken is fork-tender, about 30 minutes.

Remove chicken and shred; then strain the chicken broth using a fine-mesh sieve and discard the vegetable scraps and bay leave

Heat oil in the same pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onions, carrots, celery, garlic and cook until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Stir in the shredded chicken, orzo, rosemary, and turmeric (if using). Then return the broth to the stockpot and bring a boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer until the orzo is cooked, about 20 minutes.

Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with fresh parsley or mint, if desired.

Air Fryer Sweet Potato Fries

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes peeled
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
  • Preheat the air fryer to 380°F. Peel the sweet potatoes, then slice each potato into even 1/4 inch thick sticks.

Place the sweet potatoes in a large mixing bowl, and toss with olive oil, salt, garlic powder, paprika and black pepper.

Cook in 2 or 3 batches, depending on the size of your basket without overcrowding the pan until they’re crispy. I recommend 12 minutes, turning halfway. This may vary based on your air fryer.

Serve immediately with your favorite dipping sauce

Quinoa Patties

  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ red onion finely chopped
  • ½ cup mozzarella cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • Water as needed add moisture
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil

For the Avocado Yogurt Dip

  • 2 tablespoons cilantro chopped
  • ½ cup yogurt
  • ½ avocado extra ripe
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine quinoa, eggs, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in onions, cheese, garlic, and cilantro. Add the breadcrumbs, stir, and let sit for a few minutes so the crumbs can absorb some of the moisture. Feel free to add water if the mixture feels too dry. Form the mixture into 6-8 patties.

Frying Instructions:Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Place add quinoa on the heated pan, making sure not to overcrowd the pan and cook until the patties are golden color, about 7 – 10 per side minutes.

Baking Instructions:Place the quinoa patties on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush the oil on top of the patties. Bake in a preheated oven at 400°F for 15 minutes, until golden.

To make the avocado yogurt sauce, whisk together the cilantro, avocado and yogurt. Season with salt and pepper and serve with the cooked quinoa patties.

 Notes

Storage: Store any leftovers in an airtight container. They will last up to 5 days in the fridge.

Freezing Instructions: You can also freeze the patties before or after cooking them.

  • To freeze them prior to cooking, lay them on a flat baking dish in the freezer for at least 4 hours. When frozen, place them in an airtight bag. Thaw in the fridge overnight and cook per instructions.
  • To freeze them after cooking, simply store them in an airtight bag after they’ve cooled. To re-heat, thaw in the fridge overnight and bake in a 350°F oven until heated through.

Substitutes: For best results, follow the recipe as is. However here are some common substitutes that would work well in this recipe.

  • Instead of eggs, you can use a flax eggs. For each regular egg, use 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed + 3 tablespoons water.
  • Any type of shredded cheese can be used in place of mozzarella.
  • If you prefer not to use breadcrumbs, you can use a gluten-free flour like almond flour or oat flour, or you can also use panko breadcrumbs.

“Satisfy your sweet tooth with a plant-based treat in under 10 minutes,” Jawad says about the following recipe. “3-ingredient chia pudding is the perfect pick-me-up. High in fiber, protein, and healthy fats, this recipe is as good for you as it tastes.”

3-Ingredient Chia Pudding

  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • ½ cup almond milk or milk of choice
  • 1 teaspoon honey or other sweetener
  • Strawberries, blueberries, or other fruit

Pour all ingredients into a Mason jar and mix well. Let sit for a few minutes and then stir again until it is smooth and there’s no clumping.

Cover the jar and store in the refrigerator for at least two hours.

When you’re ready to eat, top with your favorite fruit and serve.

The Cake Boss Cooks!

Here’s what I learned about Buddy Valastro aka the Cake Boss and star of TLC’s Cake Boss and Kitchen Boss, after meeting him and watching him cook a fantastic meal for the five grand winners of the KitchenAid Make the Cut Sweepstakes by hhgregg at the Senior PGA several summers ago in Benton Harbor, Michigan. The first is that he’s warm and witty, the second he can whip up a multi-course dinner in an amazing short period of time, and the third is he doesn’t measure.

Chopping up a big pile of pancetta (a type of Italian bacon and no, we didn’t learn how much), he adds it to a big pot (“I like to cook family style”) along with finely chopped shallots and minced garlic.

“If you don’t have shallots, you can use onions,” he says. “It ain’t gonna kill you.”

Next come the tomatoes that the Valastros can each fall – some hundred bushels and a large pile of basil – an ingredient he describes as the most important.

“When you cut it,” he says. “It releases all the flavors.”

And next – well, let’s just say it was lucky there wasn’t a heart specialist in the group.

“You’re going to go crazy when you see how much salt I put in this,” he says, scooping up what looks like a huge handful of salt from a bowl and throwing it into his pasta sauce. “But believe me you need it.”

Watching Valastro, we all wonder how much salt he used.

“I don’t measure,” he says after someone asks. “I ain’t going to lie to you.”

Indeed, when Buddy cooks, several of his crew watch him, trying to estimate the amounts he uses to translate them into recipes for his food shows and cookbooks.

“Anytime I cook with tomatoes, I always put in a little sugar,” he says. “Maybe because I’m a baker, maybe because I’m a sweet guy.”

He also likes to keep a piece of bread nearby to dip in the sauce to taste for seasoning.

While he’s talking, he brings us up to speed on Cake Boss, the reality show based upon Carlo’s Bakery, his fourth generation bakery in Hoboken, New Jersey. There are now more Carlo’s Bakery locations as well as Carlo’s Bake Shop Vending Machines including one in Las Vegas.

“It’s pretty wild,” he says. “I do a life sized Betty White cake.”

Next, he adds cream to the pasta sauce so the red turns pink.

“Sometimes I do what my dad used to do which is whip the cream before adding it,” says Valastro. “This is old school Italian.”

After throwing in a “smidge” more basil and telling us we can add as much cream as we want, we get to eat the sauce after he ladles it over bowtie shaped pasta.  Served with a round of polenta, a caprese salad – freshly made mozzarella layered with tomatoes and basil leaves and drizzled with olive oil, Buddy starts on the cannoli – rolled pastry shells stuffed with a thick rich cream made of ricotta cheese, cream, sugar and a touch of cinnamon oil.

“Don’t be cheap with the cannoli cream,” he says, using a pastry bag to extrude a large amount into the rolls. “The trick to making the rolls is lard. But it’s hard. You have to fry them and wind them around a stick. I did a demo of it once at DisneyWorld and I was like stressing. This is one of the recipes in my book that I say good luck. Better to buy some good shells somewhere.”

Buddy Valasco with big smile.

When Buddy finally is finished cooking a meal that seems like it should have taken days – the elapsed time is about an hour — he has produced a warm tomato basil soup, garlic cheese bread, veal picante, the pasta dish, the caprese salad, polenta as well as cannoli for dessert.

“I want to bring back a time,” he says in closing, “I want to let the basil talk, the garlic talk, I want to cook from the heart.  That’s what it’s all about.”

Caprese Salad

  • 2 ripe tomatoes, cut 1/4″ slices across the equator
  • 1 pound best quality fresh mozzarella cheese, cut 1/4″ slices
  • Fresh whole leaves of basil, approximately 15-20 leaves of assorted sizes
  • Best quality flavorful extra virgin olive oil, as needed
  • Coarse salt
  • Coarse grindings black pepper

 On a serving platter, lay down the slices of tomato and sprinkle with salt. Allow to rest 5-10 minutes until tomatoes exude some juices. Lay mozzarella on top of the tomatoes, season with sprinklings of salt and grindings of pepper.

Drizzle olive oil to taste over all. Oil will mingle with the tomato juices to create a flavorful sauce.

Scatter fresh basil leaves decoratively over all.

Pasta with Pink Sauce

  • ½ pound pancetta
  • 2 – 4 shallots
  • 28-ounce can Italian tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1 to 3 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup or more fresh basil
  • ¼ to ½ cup grated Romano cheese
  • ½ to 1 cup heavy cream
  • Salt, pepper and sugar, to taste
  • 1 pound farfalle or bowtie pasta

Finely slice up the shallots and garlic. Cut the pancetta into chunks. Sauté the shallots over medium heat.

After a couple of minutes add in the garlic and the pancetta. Cook for a few minutes and then add tomatoes.

Add a dash of sugar, salt, pepper and bring it to a roaring boil for about 5 minutes. Lower the heat and let it cook for another 5 minutes.

Next add the heavy cream. You can cook your pasta at any time but you only want to cook it al dente because it’ll continue to cook in the pan with the sauce.

Cook for another couple of minutes. Then drain the farfalle and dump it right into the pink sauce.

Cook it at high heat for another minute so that it absorbs the sauce. 

Finish with fresh basil and some grated Romano cheese.

Cook Once Dinner Fix: Cassy Joy Garcia

          Leftovers make me feel guilty. More than they should, they frequently sit and sit in my refrigerator until, as my mother would say, “they’ve served their time” and can be thrown out for good reason—they’re no longer edible. There must be a better way.

          Now Cassy Joy Garcia shows us that way in her new cookbook, Cook Once Dinner Fix: Quick and Exciting Ways to Transform Tonight’s Dinner into Tomorrow’s Feast (Simon & Schuster 2021). I had previously written about Garcia’s first cookbook, the bestselling Cook Once, Eat All Week:  26 Weeks of Gluten-Free, Affordable Meal Prep to Preserve Your Time & Sanity, a title that pretty much says it all. This time around, Garcia again is all about saving time and money while creating great and healthy meals. Featuring 120 easy to make recipes, she uses leftovers from one recipe to create a second completely different meal for another meal.

          The trick, says Garcia, a holistic nutritionist who created the blog Fed + Fit, is to create twin recipes such as Dry-Rubbed Barbecue Brisket and then transform it into a second meal–the very yummy Cheesesteak-Stuffed Peppers and her leftover Roasted Garlic Turkey Breast becomes Spiced Turkey Potato Soup. Both twin meal shave different flavor profiles but enough commonality that it’s easy to adapt each one of a series into a second day dinner without fuss.         

In one dinner series, Garcia takes simply roasted cauliflower florets, transforming them into what she describes as a “craveable, nourishing General Tso’s take on cauliflower and then into the most satisfying tacos inspired by tinga, a Mexican stew.

The bold flavors of the sauces and the way we quickly re-crisp the cauliflower creates the magic. You will not be bored by these dishes, and I bet you’ll find yourself craving them often.”

         She also provides tips, substitution ideas, and a list of categories such as dairy-free, egg-free, freezes easily, gluten-free option, and nut-free to help those on special diets know which recipes will work for them.  

“I really like the idea of being able to bridge tonight’s effort into a meal in the future,” says Garcia, who lives in San Antonio, Texas with her husband and two children. “If you don’t get ahead, you’ll feel like you’re constantly catching up.”

We can all identify with that.

The recipes below are from Cook Once Dinner Fix by Cassy Joy Garcia.

MEAL 1                                                                                                

General Tso’s Cauliflower

Serves 4

Active time: 30 minutes

Total time: 55 minutes

  • 4 medium heads cauliflower (21/2 pounds total), cut into florets
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 11/2 cups uncooked white rice, rinsed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh   ginger
  • 1⁄3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons chili garlic sauce (see Tip)
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 cup vegetable broth or water
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions (sliced on an angle), for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds, for garnish.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

Toss the cauliflower florets with 1/4 cup of the olive oil, then divide them between two rimmed baking sheets, arranging them in an even layer, and sprinkle with the salt. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until the tops of the florets start to brown.

Meanwhile, cook the rice according to the package instructions.

In a large skillet or wok, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes, until fragrant.

Add the honey, vinegar, soy sauce, chili garlic sauce, sesame oil, fish sauce, cornstarch, and broth and whisk until well combined and smooth. Simmer for about 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens.

Transfer half the cooked cauliflower (about 6 cups) to an airtight container and refrigerate to use for Meal 2 (it will keep for up to 5 days). Add the remaining cauliflower to the pan with the sauce. Toss to combine, then remove from the heat.

Serve the cauliflower over the rice, garnished with the green onions and sesame seeds.

TIPS

  • Garcia says to ook for chili garlic sauce, a bright red Vietnamese condiment, in the international foods aisle. She uses the Huy Fong brand with the rooster on it– the same brand as her favorite Sriracha.
  • If you like less heat, use just 1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce to make the dish milder.
  • If you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, use a vegan fish sauce.

MEAL 2                                                                                                

Cauliflower Tinga Tacos

Serves 4

Active time: 15 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes

  • 3 canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 1⁄3 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • About 6 cups roasted cauliflower (reserved from Meal 1; see page 244)
  • 8 corn tortillas, warmed
  • 1 avocado, thinly sliced, for garnish
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion, for garnish
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges, for serving

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

In a large bowl, whisk together the chipotles, tomato paste, lime juice, oregano, cumin, salt, pepper, and 6 tablespoons water. Add the cauliflower and toss to coat evenly.

Spread the cauliflower evenly over a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the tops of the cauliflower florets start to darken.

Divide the roasted cauliflower among the tortillas. Top with the avocado, cilantro, and onion and serve, with the lime wedges alongside for squeezing over the top.

Roasted Chicken and Potatoes with Fresh Arugula Salad

Serves 2

Active time: 30 minutes

Total time: 1 hour 30 minutes

For the Roasted Chicken

  • 1 (4- to 4 1/2-pound) whole chicken
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) salted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

For the Roasted Potatoes

  • 1 pound red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch-wide wedges
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

For the Fresh Arugula Salad

  • 4 cups arugula
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

In a small bowl, stir together the butter and garlic until well combined.

Rub about half the garlic butter over the outside of the chicken. Using your fingers, gently lift the skin from the breast and smear the rest of the garlic butter under the skin.

Place the chicken in a roasting pan or on a rimmed baking sheet. Tuck the wing tips under the joint where the wing meets the chicken’s body. Using about 6 inches of kitchen twine, tie the ends of the drumsticks together.

Season the chicken with the salt and pepper. Roast for 1 hour 10 minutes, or until the juices run clear and/or an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest portion of a thigh registers 165°F. If the skin starts to brown too deeply, tent the chicken with a piece of aluminum foil.

Meanwhile, roast the potatoes: In a large bowl, toss the potatoes with the olive oil. Spread them out over a rimmed baking sheet and season with the salt.

When the chicken has been in the oven for 35 minutes, put the potatoes in the oven and roast for 45 minutes, or until they start to look golden brown.

When the chicken is done, remove it from the oven, tent it with foil (if it’s not already tented), and let rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the arugula salad: Place the arugula in a large bowl. Add the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper and massage the dressing into the leaves. Remove the potatoes from the oven. Carve the legs, thighs, and wings from the chicken, transfer to an airtight container, and refrigerate to use for Meal 2 (it will keep for up to 5 days). Carve the chicken breasts from the chicken and divide them between two plates.

Serve the chicken with the potatoes and arugula salad alongside.

MEAL 2

Butter Chicken Bowls with White Rice

Serves 2

Active time: 35 minutes

Total time: 40 minutes

  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Cooked chicken legs, thighs, and wings (reserved from Meal 1), skin removed, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) salted butter or ghee
  • 1 tablespoon grated garlic (about 3 cloves)
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger (from about 1/2 inch)
  • 2 1/2 cups crushed tomatoes (from one 18-ounce can)
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
  • 1 cup uncooked white rice, rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

In a small bowl, whisk together the paprika, garam masala, coriander, cumin, turmeric, and salt. Add the chicken and toss to coat in the spice mixture.

In a large sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger and caute for 3 to 4 minutes, until fragrant but not browned.

Add the seasoned chicken to the pan, reserving any spice mixture left in the bowl, and sear, undisturbed, for 3 minutes, or until lightly browned on the bottom, then stir and sear for 3 minutes more. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside on a plate.

In the same pan, whisk together the tomatoes, yogurt, cream, lemon juice, and any remaining spice mixture until combined. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes, until fragrant and slightly reduced in volume.

Meanwhile, cook the rice according to the package instructions.

Return the chicken to the sauce and simmer for 5 minutes more, then remove from the heat.

Serve the chicken over the rice, garnished with the cilantro.

Chocolate Tofu Pudding Pots and Pizza Mummies: Two Great Last Minute Halloween Treats

     Looking for a last minute Halloween treat that’s not only yummy, but healthy to counteract all that Candy Corn, caramel corn, and other candies we’re going to overeat?  We’ve got good news for you. Catherine McCord has you covered. McCord, founder of Weelicious, a website created as a motivating guide combining her own experiences in creating healthy and delicious meals with fact-based research on children and food.

     McCord, the author of Weelcious: One Family. One Meal featuring 140 original “fast, fresh and easy” recipes and Weelicious Lunches: Think Outside the Lunchbox, takes one of her childhood favorite desserts—pudding cups and recreates it into Chocolate Tofu Pudding Cups served in small clay flowerpots for a perfect Halloween treat. And honestly, it’s so good, no one will realize that it’s healthy.

     Chocolate Tofu Pudding Cups

  • 14-ounce package soft silken tofu (McCord suggests House Foods soft silken or Mori-Nu firm silken)
  • 1/3 cup pure cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup agave nectar (feel free to use a little more if you want it sweeter)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 24 chocolate wafers (McCord likes using Famous Chocolate Wafers)
  •  Gummy Worms (Okay, it’s candy so we’re open to suggestions for a wholesome substitute that people would want to eat. But until then, either skip the Gummies and lose the great visual presentation or just focus on how healthy tofu is for you,)
  • 4 small clay flowerpots

Place the first 4 ingredients in a food processor and blend to combine.

Scrape down the sides of the food processor. Blend again to make sure everything is incorporated.

Place 4 whole chocolate wafers in the bottom of the clay pots so none of the pudding goes through the hole at the bottom of the pots.

Divide the chocolate tofu pudding between the 4 pots.

Place the remaining 20 wafers in a Ziploc bag and using a rolling pin, crush into small pieces resembling dirt.

Sprinkle the crushed wafers on top of the pots and then place the gummy worms in the pots.

Serve.

Pizza Mummies

  • 2 English muffins, cut in half
  • 8 teaspoons pizza sauce
  • 2 mozzarella cheese sticks
  • 3 green olives with pimentos

Preheat oven to 400℉.

Place the English muffin halves on a baking sheet and bake for  5 minutes.

Remove muffins from oven and spread 2 teaspoons of the pizza sauce onto each English muffin half.

Peel the mozzarella sticks into strings and decoratively arrange them on top of each English muffin. Slice the green olives into 1/4 inch thick rings and place them on top of the cheese to create eyes.

Bake mummies for 3 more minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

Tiffani Thiessen invites us to “Pull Up a Chair”

          Only six or so when she started helping out in the kitchen, Tiffani Thiessen grew up in a family where dinners were a gathering time to enjoy great cooking and conversations. She upped her game from traditional American fare when she and other stars from “Saved by the Bell” toured in Europe.

          “It definitely impacted me,” says Thiessen who played Kelly Kapowski on the hit TV show and was 16 at the time. “I learned all about wine, cheese and all types of different foods when we traveled in France, Italy and Holland.”

          This love of food and conviviality was so intense that though Thiessen continued with her acting career (she was Valerie Malone on “Beverly Hills 90210” and starred for four years in the series “Alexa & Katie”), she also segued into cooking, hosting both the long running “Dinner at Tiffani’s” on the Cooking Channel and “Deliciousness,” the MTV show that looks at food blunders, restaurant fails, and other funny food and drink moments. As if that wasn’t enough to keep any mom of two young children busy enough, Thiessen spent three years writing Pull Up a Chair: Recipes from My Family to Yours (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt $30), which was released several years ago but remains as fresh and innovative, warm and inviting as ever.

          Describing cooking as therapeutic as well as artistic and creative, Thiessen’s recipes include new dishes, those she collected through the years and family favorites, some that she tweaked including her mom’s beef stroganoff which the family ate once a week when she was young.

          “I wasn’t a big fan,” says Thiessen, adding that her mom’s stroganoff was very traditional and included stirring sour cream in at the end so that it took on the appearance of dog food—her words not ours, Mrs. Thiessen. Tiffani’s tweaked it into a beef and mushroom Stroganoff with creamy polenta, spinach and a touch of brandy. The sour cream is served on the side.

          Did that hurt you mom’s feelings? I ask.

          “No, I have one of the most supportive families,” she says.

          There’s also a cowboy twang to some of her dishes such as the short rib beef enchiladas and three cheese queso, since husband Brady Smith is a meat-loving Texas boy. Her son Holt gobbles up her mac and cheese and Thiessen says Harper her eight-year-old daughter loves to decorate pizzas.

          “I don’t think of myself as anything but a home cook and my recipes are easy but everything I cook is with love and passion and that’s what Pull Up a Chair is all about,” says Thiessen, who, during our phone interview, calls me sweetheart and dear.

          That friendliness as well as the sumptuousness of her cookbook—125 recipes and lots of full page color photos of both luscious-looking food and family (and yes, her husband is handsome and her children adorable), makes me long to get an invitation to dine at her house.

          Since that won’t be happening, I did a little pre-interview stalking watching videos of Thiessen cooking in her kitchen and then displaying part of her cookbook collection.

           “I love cookbooks, I love the look, the aesthetics of them” she says when I mention my sleuthing. “Most people I’m close to would say I have a problem.  I don’t use some of them that much, as my husband points out, but there’s just something I like about having them around.”

          I can identify with that having heard similar comments from both my husband and daughter. Another reason to get that dinner invitation. But until then, I have the cookbook and can create the recipes in my own home.

Pickle & Potato Salad

Serves 6

  • 1½ pounds tricolored small potatoes
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for the potatoes
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup chopped sweet pickles
  • 3 tablespoons pickle juice (from the jar)
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 5 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
  • ½ medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
  • Paprika, for garnish

Place the potatoes in a large pot and add enough cold water to cover them by 1 inch and a generous pinch of salt. Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until the potatoes are fork-tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain the potatoes and let them rest until they’re cool enough to handle. Cut each one in half.

In a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, sweet pickles, pickle juice, mustard, salt, and pepper.

In a separate large bowl, combine the halved potatoes, eggs, and red onion and toss with the dressing. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and garnish with the parsley and paprika.

Honey-Ginger Chicken Wings

Serves 6 to 8

  • ½ cup honey (preferably wildflower or mesquite)
  • ¼ cup tamari or soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 lime, plus more zest for garnish
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 16 chicken wings (about 4 pounds), tips removed, drumettes and flats separated

In a medium bowl, whisk together the honey, tamari, sesame oil, ginger, scallions, garlic, lime zest, lime juice, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Reserve ¾ cup of the mixture in the fridge.

Pour the remaining marinade into a 2-gallon zip-top bag. Add the chicken and seal the bag, pressing out as much air as possible. Massage the marinade into the wings. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight. Before cooking, let the wings stand at room temperature for about 2 hours.

When ready to cook the wings, preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Remove the wings from the marinade, reserving the marinade. Season the wings with salt and pepper and place them skin-side down in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Spoon some of the marinade over them; discard the remaining marinade. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and flip the wings, basting with the pan drippings. Rotate the pan and bake for another 20 to 25 minutes, until the honey has caramelized and the skin is a dark amber color.

In a small saucepan, bring the reserved ¾ cup marinade (from the fridge) to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until the liquid turns into a thick, syrupy glaze, about 4 minutes.

Coat the wings with the glaze, arrange them on a serving platter, and garnish with scallions and lime zest.

These recipes are excerpted from Pull Up a Chair © 2018 by Tiffani Thiessen. Photography © 2018 by Rebecca Sanabria. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

Ree Drummond Shows How The Pioneer Woman Cooks–Super Easy!

“Between my family, my website, my cookbooks, and my TV show, I make a lot of food around here,” writes Ree Drummond about the subject of her newest cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks—Super Easy! “As much as I’ve always loved cooking—and of course, eating. It seems that more and more these days, I’m looking for ways to simplify my life in the kitchen. I find, because they free me up to have more time–and energy–for other areas of my life. This also makes cooking less of a chore and more of a pleasure—exactly what cooking should be.”

Creating 120 shortcut recipes, Drummond offers myriad recipes that can be quickly assembled for a delicious meal. Think Sheet Pan Quesadillas, Grilled Pineapple with Cream, Waffle Sandwiches, Roasted Greek Salad, and Cheeseburger Pizza, to name just a few.

“I’ve absolutely fallen in love with this new generation of recipes,” continues Drummond, “including Butter Pecan French Toast, Buffalo Chicken Totchos, Speedy Dumpling Soup, Broccoli-Cheese Stromboli–so great for kids, and an entire section of pastas and grains, such as One-Pot Sausage Pasta and colorful and fresh Hawaiian Shrimp Bowls.”

Drummond, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Pioneer Woman Cooks, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier, and The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays, first hit the food scene in 2006 with her website, The Pioneer Woman which reflected her life on a working cattle ranch in Oklahoma with her husband and four children. Five years later, her cooking show, The Pioneer Woman, premiered on Food Network.

At 7 p.m. CT, October 21st, she’ll be at Anderson’s Bookshop to celebrate her newest book, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Super Easy!  All books will be pre-signed; the event will include a presentation and talk from Drummond. The event is being held at Anderson’s Bookshop at Community Christian Church, 1635 Emerson Lane, Napierville, Illinois. Reservations are required and space is limited. Click here to register. To see other stops on Drummond’s book tour, click here.

White Turkey Chili

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 generous tablespoon Tex-Mex or taco seasoning
  • 3 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • Two 4-ounce cans chopped green chiles, undrained
  • Two 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained
  • 4 cups (1 quart) low-sodium chicken broth
  • Hot sauce (such as Cholula or Tabasco)
  • 2 tablespoons masa harina (corn flour)
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • One 10-ounce bag frozen fire-roasted corn (no need to thaw)
  • Kosher salt
  • Sour cream, for serving
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges

In a soup pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Stir in the onion and garlic, sprinkle in the Tex-Mex seasoning. Cook, stirring often, until the onion starts to soften, about 3 minutes.

Add the chicken and stir to combine. Add the green chiles, beans and chicken broth. Add a few dashes hot sauce. Stir and bring mixture to a gentle boil.

In a measuring cup, combine the masa and heavy cream; stir with a fork into a thick paste. Pour the masa mixture into the soup then stir and let chili cook and thicken for about 10 minutes. When the chili is thick and bubbling, add the corn. Stir until the corn is hot, about 2 minutes. Taste and add salt and more seasoning if needed.

Serve topped with sour cream, avocado, hot sauce and Monterey Jack. Have lime wedges for squeezing.

Makes 6-8 servings

From “The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Super Easy!” by Ree Drummond