Archive for March, 2011

March 25, 2011

Blame it on the Merry Mushroom Pattern.

by Crystal Cook

The other day I opened up my cupboard to find an old friend. Underneath the piles of Pyrex, the gleaming gold and orange of the mushroom detail caught my eye. “No,” I said. “Risotto is just way too time consuming. It’s late in the day and I don’t think I have the energy.”

“But you miss me, don’t you?”

“Yes, my little mushroom dish. Yes, I do. Let me pour a glass of wine  and we will cook.”

Mushroom Risotto with Spinach and Bacon

  • 6 cups of organic chicken broth
  • 8 slices of center-cut bacon, chopped
  • 2  tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped shallots
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 ounces baby portobella mushrooms, sliced
  • 5 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
  • 5 ounces oyster mushrooms, sliced
  • 1.5 cups uncooked Arborio rice
  • 1 cup dry sherry
  • 5 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 1/2-cup grated fresh Asiago cheese
  • 1/2-cup grated fresh Parmaesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. First, do your self a favor and have everything prepped. Risotto does not like it when you step a way from it for any length of time.
  2. Bring organic chicken broth to a simmer in a saucepan (do not boil the broth). Keep warm over low heat.
  3. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add bacon to pan; cook until crisp. Remove the bacon from pan, leaving the drippings in the pan. Add oil,  shallots, parsley, thyme and garlic to drippings in the pan. Cook 5 minutes or until shallots are tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in mushrooms; cook 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add rice and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in dry sherry; cook 1 minute or until the liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Stir in 1 cup of broth; cook 4 minutes or until the liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Add remaining broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of broth is absorbed before adding the next (about 25-30 minutes total). Stir in spinach; cook 1 minute or until all is wilted.  Remove from heat; stir in cheeses, salt and pepper. Sprinkle with chopped bacon.
  4. Dig in, you earned this meal!
March 18, 2011

Inside the Queens’ Studio with Anthony Caruso

by Casserole Queens

The Queens periodically interview someone we find interesting and inspiring and in this installment, we are thrilled to introduce you to Anthony J. Caruso, host of “Thindulge.” Not only did Anthony win us over with his knack for taking everyday recipes and turning them into delicious healthy dishes, but he also stole our hearts with his natural charisma and warmth. Just look at that smile!

Tell us a little about yourself.

I have always loved food. When I was five years old, I wanted an Easy Bake Oven for Christmas. That love of food showed up on my waistline. Italian home cooking will do that to you. I moved to New York after college to pursue a career in acting and realized that I needed to take to take the weight off. I started exercising and ate the same boring food over and over again because the food I loved was off limits. I was thin, but didn’t enjoy eating. Then, one day, my partner and I were watching Food Network and commenting on how delicious the food looked, but that we would never make it because it was too fattening. I looked at him and said, “I wonder how it would taste if you used some low-fat ingredients?” That’s the moment my concept of recipe manipulation was born. I started trying out all kinds of recipes and they were great. Friends would eat it and swear it wasn’t healthy. People started asking me how I did it. When I saw how many people were stuck in the same rut I was in, I thought it would be a great idea for a show, which has evolved into Thindulge.

What is your recipe for success?

My main ingredient is faith in myself and my dream, because if you don’t believe in you, you can’t expect anyone else to either. I mix that with unwavering determination, because everyone who has done anything great in this world has had people ridicule them and tell them no. Then I fold in gratitude, which keeps you humble and grounded. I top it all off with joy, because if you’re not going to enjoy the ride, why bother?

If you weren’t a chef, you would be…

A massage therapist. It’s actually what I do now, when I’m not cooking.

If a casserole described your personality, what would it be?

Mashed Potato Casserole. I’m cheesy, I’m mushy, I’m comforting and my goal is to put a smile on peoples’ faces when they see me. And like mashed potatoes where you can pair them with many different ingredients and still taste good, I’m versatile and can adapt to different situations very easily.

Name one cooking disaster you’ve had.

I was teaching a cooking class and they had me use a convection oven. I had never used one before, but they gave me a quick demo in how to set the temperature and I figured I would be fine. Well, I didn’t know that a convection oven has a stand to put the food on so the air circulates around the food. It was missing the stand that goes in the oven to elevate the food and I slid the food in like you would a regular oven. When I went to take it out and show the class, it wasn’t done. I put it in longer and still wasn’t done. And again. And again. Meanwhile, I have to ad lib, all while maintaining some authority that I’m qualified to teach the class. After all, here I am, a Next Food Network Star Finalist, and I can’t get my food to come out right. Finally, someone noticed the stand in back and brought it out. What should have been in for 8 minutes was in for 30 minutes. That’s a lot of ad libbing to a group of hungry people!

Why did you decide to “thindulge” recipes as opposed to making them full fat, like most other chefs?

I feel there is a perception that healthy cooking has to be boring – that you have to deprive yourself of the foods you love, in order to stay fit. I look at magazines and their idea of a healthy snack is deli-sliced turkey breast wrapped around sliced tomatoes. My idea of a snack is nachos. As a kid, my mom would offer pears and apples for dessert and I always groaned. I wanted chocolate cake. Besides, anyone can throw a stick of butter in a recipe or cook things in bacon fat and it will taste good. In my opinion, it takes more effort and creativity to create a chocolate layer cake that is 100% whole grain, sugar free and has a fraction of the fat, calories and cholesterol and yet still tastes like it came from a bakery.

If you had to eat the same meal every day for the rest of your life, what would you pick?

Spaghetti and meatballs all the way. As a kid, we had it every Sunday. In my family, we have pasta on Thanksgiving before we eat the traditional turkey dinner. It takes me home every time I eat it.

What is your least favorite ingredient and why?

Tofu. I can’t stomach the taste. I really wanted to find a way to eat it since it’s so heathy, so I tried putting it in a pumpkin soup to mask the taste. There weren’t enough spices in the world to cover up the taste. I threw it all out and ordered pizza.

Who was the most famous person you’ve cooked for?

From what I understand, someone has made my recipes for Whoopi Goldberg.

If someone wrote a book about you, what would the title be?


March 10, 2011

Lent. What did you give up?

by Casserole Queens

Intern Brett went to the streets to do some investigative reporting…

Chocolate, sodas, sweets, ice cream…It’s that time of year, again! Lent started on Wednesday, the 9th of March and will continue for 46 days until Saturday, the 23rd of April. There will be withdrawals. What delicious treat are you giving up for Lent? I got some input from a few other fellow interns and the list looks pretty interesting!

Gretchen is taking on her sweet tooth and giving up “all candy. Period.” Sitting across from her, I know how much she loves candy…this should be interesting!

Meghan is going to “exercise every day.” …WOW, you go girl!

Sarah is going to resist “buying new clothes!” I wish I had your strength, Sarah.

Nate will be “giving up all sodas.” Yummm, water!

Although I usually let go of my all-time favorite treat, chocolate, I think I’m going to switch it up this year and test myself to see if I can withstand from all Diet Cokes in the Austin area! I’m not a huge soda drinker, but when I do have the urge, I absolutely LOVE to sip on a cold Diet Coke. Wish me luck!

Comment below on what you are giving up for Lent!

March 5, 2011

Tomato Basil Soup

by Sandy Pollock

It’s COLD in DC (where I live) and for a Texas girl, that can get old very quickly. I find that I am on a constant hunt for warm delicious things that will make the bitter cold more bearable.

The other day I got it into my mind that the only thing in the world that could make the snow melt and the sun come out was tomato basil soup. Its seemed the perfect solution for my winter blahs. I came across this recipe from Barefoot Contessa and decided to give it a shot.

Roasting the tomatoes makes such a difference in the flavor. I am a very warm and happy camper. Let me know what you think of this recipe.

Gather the ingredients:

3 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise

1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp Olive Oil

1 Tbsp kosher salt

1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

2 cups chopped yellow onions (approx. 2 onions)

6 garlic cloves, minced

3 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

28 oz. canned diced tomatoes with their juices

4 cups of fresh basil leaves, packed

1 tsp thyme leaves

1 quart (4 cups) chicken stock

In a large bowl, toss the tomatoes, 1/4 cup of olive oil, salt +pepper.

Spread the tomatoes in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes at 400 degree F.

Rough chop onion and garlic.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large stock pot.

Add the onion, garlic and red pepper flakes to the oil and saute until they start to brown a bit.

Add the canned tomatoes, basil, thyme and chicken stock.

Then add the oven roasted-tomatoes and include any of the liquid on the baking sheet. Bring to a boil and then simmer (uncovered) for 40 minutes.

The soup is very hot and blending can be tricky if you try to overfill the blender.

Blending in small batches is the key. Don’t fill blender much more than halfway up.

Also, the lid of your blender has a plastic removable plug. Removing this will allow steam to escape. Cover this whole up with a sexy dish towel and get to blending.


Serve with bread and watch the snow melt and the sun come out!

March 2, 2011

Kitchen Grooves

by Crystal Cook

Sandy is a classically trained chef. I, on the other hand, am far from trained, but I do like to play the part on occasion. For me, French food is terribly intimidating, so to get motivated and my mise en place (look at me with my French terms!), I need to call in the assistance of my trusty iPod. From Vichyssoise to Souffle, this play list will keep you motivated to master the classics!

1. L.O.V.E. (French Version), Nat King Cole

2. Florence Sur Les Champs Elysees, Miles Davis

3. Lettre a Paris, Paris Combo

4. I Love Paris, Frank Sinatra

5. J’Ai Deux Amours, Madeleine Peyroux

6. April in Paris, Ella Fitzgerald

7. La Valse A Mille Temps, Jacques Brel

8. À Paris, Francis Lemarque

9. Je Cherche un Homme, Ertha Kitt

10. Solaar Pleure, MC Solaar

Note: Save MC Solaar for last and simply move into his full catalog for when guests arrive. His smooth french rap is perfect for entertaining!

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