Foodie Events | The Daily Dish - Part 3

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Foodie Events

A Girl’s Weekend at Disney

6 Comments | Written on June 29, 2012 at 5:00 am , by

You know what I love about Walt Disney World?  It is a destination, unlike any other, where you can make a vacation anything you want it to be.  Disney World can take you behind the scenes of a movie studio or transport you to an African Safari.  It can whisk you away to a magical land where princesses and fairies come to life before your eyes.  A vacation to Orlando can mean hours of relaxing by the pool or fine dining and nightlife out on the town.

What I recently discovered, is that Disney World is not only the ultimate family vacation destination, it can also be the perfect location for a girl’s getaway weekend!  My sister and I live on opposite coasts, so we have to find the time and a place to meet up every once in a while to catch up and spend some quality time together.

Take a look at this video we shot documenting our weekend excursion to EPCOT in Orlando.   Time and budgets may not allow for a trip around the world, but we sure had fun with our whirlwind tour of the World Showcase.  Check it out!

One of the highlights was meeting Hilda Castillo, the Tequila Ambassador for La Cava del Tequila, the restaurant and bar inside the Mexico pavilion featured in the video.

She shared her expertise on how to properly taste and enjoy the three different kinds of tequila and well as a few tips on making the perfect margarita!   Follow our “flight” to Mexico featuring Partida Blanco, Don Julio Reposado, and Gran Centenario Añejo.

Tequila Blanco

Tequila Blanco is crystal clear, light and fresh.  These types of Tequilas are a finished product after a second distillation.  Many connoisseurs prefer it because of its pure flavor.  It is bottled or stored immediately after distillation, or aged less than two months in oak barrels.

Tequila Reposado

To be classified as Reposado, a Tequila must be aged for a minimum of 2 months but less than a year.  Tequila Reposado is a perfect balance of wood, fruity notes, vanilla, and spices that transport you to a magical place of timeless beauty.

Tequila Añejo

Añejo is a delicate blend of uniquely aged Tequilas.  Añejos are aged in small, white oak barrels for a minimum of 12 months.  This Tequila has several aromas, like chocolate, almonds, and wood; it is soft and sweet.  As in many premium red wines, blends must be adjusted to each vintage; a lot of care and attention is paid when blending Añejo, making it smooth, distinctive, and extraordinary.

The outstanding margaritas featured in the video were created by Mexican Mixologist, Junior Merino.  They were hands down the most flavorful, intriguing and creative margaritas I had ever tasted.  He is a liquid chef…literally!  Check out this website:  Here are the descriptions of a few of my favorites:

Wild Passion Fruit
100% Agave Tequila Reposado, ginger liqueur, passion fruit, mango nectar and fresh lime juice, topped with mango foam, served on the rocks

El Mayor premium silver Tequila, melon liqueur, fresh avocado, agave nectar and fresh lime juice, served frozen with a hibiscus Himalayan salt rim

Blood Orange
El Mayor premium silver Tequila, orange liqueur, sweet-tart mix of blood orange juice and hibiscus syrup, topped with wild berry foam served on the rocks

El Mayor premium silver Tequila, muddled jalapeños, fresh lime juice, cucumber and agave nectar, served on the rocks with a hibiscus Himalayan salt rim

In the end, vacation travel is about making memories that last a lifetime.  My sister and I have such vivid memories of Disney magic as children, and now we have rekindled that magic as adults.  No matter the age, you can’t help but laugh, smile and be filled with joy during your time in the resort!

Grilled Tropical Summer Salad

22 Comments | Written on June 22, 2012 at 5:00 am , by

Now that it’s officially summer, I think it is time to fire up the grill!

Not only does that mean it’s time for burgers and dogs, but why not get creative with the grill as well?  Pineapple holds up well over the coals, and a grilled pineapple makes for a sensational salad.

Speaking of fruit on the grill, I am so excited for the Dole California Cook-Off this weekend!  Three talented home cooks will go head to head right here in Hollywood, competing for a whopping $10,000 prize.

Chef Ben Ford and I will be judging the competition, looking for the most DOLE-icious recipe based on creativity, flavor and taste.  The three outstanding finalists are featured on the DOLE Facebook page.   My mouth waters in anticipation of trying each fantastic dish!   (Click here to see the finalists.)

It is a thrill to be a part of this event because DOLE is the world’s largest producer and marketer of high-quality fresh fruit and fresh vegetables, and is the leading producer of organic bananas. DOLE markets a growing line of packaged and frozen fruit and is a produce industry leader in nutrition education and research.

This fresh and colorful salad celebrates the grill and  Dole pineapple.  Grilled tropical fruit is tossed with greens, cherry tomatoes, and balsamic vinaigrette.  I even threw in a few macadamia nuts for a bit of extra crunch.  Stay tuned for updates from the contest this weekend and find out who will be $10,000 richer next week!

Grilled Tropical Summer Salad  (click here to view and print recipe)

1/2 medium pineapple, cored cut into 1/2-inch slices

1 medium mango, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices

4 cups torn salad greens

1 cup cherry tomatoes

1/3 cup balsamic vinaigrette dressing

1/3 cup macadamia nuts (optional)

Spray grill with nonstick cooking spray.  Preheat to medium-high heat.  Grill pineapple and mango 3 minutes on each side or until lightly browned.  Cut grilled fruit into bite sized pieces.  In a large salad bowl, mix fruit, greens, and tomatoes; toss lightly.  Drizzle with dressing just before serving.  Top with macadamia nuts, if desired.

Layered Peanut Butter Brittle Ice Cream Pops

19 Comments | Written on June 13, 2012 at 5:00 am , by

Nothing says “summer” like ice cream!  It keeps you cool while satisfying your sweet tooth.  One of the hottest trends I am seeing this summer season is making your own layered ice cream pops at home.  Pop makers and tool kits are flying off the shelves at kitchen stores.  There are even new cookbooks on the market with a plethora of fun recipes to try.

As much as I love a new kitchen gadget, sometimes it is nice to make a recipe the old fashioned way.  To make these pops you only need 5 ounce dixie cups and plastic spoons!

The sweet/salty flavor combination is what makes these pops shine.  Wait until you see how I layer finely crushed peanut brittle in the pop!

I love the Peanut Brittle from See’s candy.  This company is a California institution.  I remember growing up in Chicago I would always look forward to my grandma bringing a special treat from See’s when she would come visit from California.

Today and tomorrow I am demonstrating this recipe at a couple of blogger events sponsored by Real California Milk in LA and San Francisco.  I can’t wait to meet everyone (and their kids!) at the “Ice Cream Socials” they have planned.  It will be a blast!   (Stay tuned for pictures of the fun!)

Now, about these pops.  They are super simple and taste like heaven on a stick.  All you do is layer the crushed peanut brittle, ice cream, peanut butter, more ice cream and top with another layer of peanut brittle.  Insert the plastic spoon “stick” and freeze until set.

When you are ready to serve, simply peel away the dixie cup and you have a perfectly portable pop!  These individual treats are great for summer entertaining and are a crowd pleaser with kids and adults alike.  The pops are prepared in advance, so they are easy to serve at any get-together.

 Here…have one!  After all, they are made to be shared!

Layered Peanut Butter Brittle Ice Cream Pops  (click here to view and print recipe)

1 cup finely crushed peanut brittle

8 five-ounce paper cups

1 quart vanilla ice cream

8 Tablespoons smooth or crunchy peanut butter

8 plastic spoons

1.  Spoon 1 tablespoon of the peanut brittle into each paper cup.  Pack in part of the ice cream to half fill each.  Layer 1 Tablespoon of the peanut butter, then remaining ice cream, and peanut brittle on top.  Repeat layering with remaining cups.  Pack each down firmly with the back of a spoon.

2.  Insert a plastic spoon, bowl end down, into each cup.  Freeze until firm.

3.  To serve, peel off cups.  Enjoy the layered pop from the spoon stick!  Makes 8 ice cream pops.

Top 5 Reasons to Attend the BHG Chill and Grill Fest!

1 Comment | Written on May 25, 2012 at 5:00 am , by

Did you know that in just a few short weeks, our friends over at Better Homes and Gardens Magazine will be hosting the second annual “Chill and Grill” festival?  This event is the ultimate summer block party.  Take a look at my top five reasons why you should go, and then check out five of my favorite grilled recipes for summer.  Enjoy!

Top 5 Reasons to go to the Better Homes and Gardens “Chill and Grill” Festival:

1)  It’s in Chicago

My hometown!   I have to tell you, this city simply sparkles in the summertime.  The crystal blue waters of Lake Michigan and the legendary architecture make this skyline a sight be behold.

2)  There’s live music

An outdoor festival just isn’t complete without some rockin’ tunes!  Chicago is famous for it’s blues scene and there will be several local bands on hand to get the party started!

3)  Guy Fieri will be there

Guy is so much fun and I love it when we get a chance to sit down and chat.  He is a fantastic addition to an outstanding lineup of chefs and presenters at the festival.

4)  You can win $10,000 and a Weber Grill

Click on the image or the link above and enter today!

5)  Simply put, it’s delicious!

The Chill and Grill website is filled with mouth-watering recipes, and the presenters at the event will be showcasing their outdoor cooking skills and teaching the crowd a few grilling tricks.

What are you waiting for…buy your tickets today!

Now that you have grilling on the mind, I thought I would share with you some of my favorite grilled recipes.  Whether you are a meat eater or a vegetarian, there’s something for everyone on the grill…even dessert!

My Top 5 Favorite Recipes on the Grill:

1)  Baby Back Ribs with Rum

2)  Grilled Pesto Pizzettes

3)  Grilled Ahi Tuna Steaks with Charred Corn Vinaigrette

4)  Grilled Martini Steaks with a Twist

5)  Grilled Banana Splits

Beringer Great Steak Challenge 2

5 Comments | Written on May 18, 2012 at 5:00 am , by

There’s something magical about Napa Valley.  The sunlight, the warm California air, the wine

This other-worldly destination is home to Beringer Vineyards, where they celebrate the perfect marriage of food and wine every year during their annual “Great Steak Challenge.”  A $25,000 recipe contest and television special on the Cooking Channel.

I was honored to cover the second annual Beringer Great Steak Challenge.  If you remember last year, our friend Lisa Keys took home the top prize in their first contest!  (Click here to read the 2011 story.)

Have these photos convinced you yet?  You simply must enter this recipe contest!  Not only will you have a chance to compete for the cash prizes, but you and a guest will enjoy a weekend getaway in this legendary vacation destination.  The sponsors at Beringer treat the contestants like culinary royalty and you will make memories to last a lifetime.

Click here to enter your best grilled steak and Beringer wine pairing.  Entries are due by July 16th!

There were many familiar faces at the 2012 contest.  Larry Elder competed and was joined by his wife, Janice.  Mary Hawkes was also a finalist and brought along her husband for the events.  (You might remember Janice Elder’s grand prize Lemon Blueberry Trifles and Mary’s winning Cranberry Citrus Biscotti from our weekly contests.  I am so proud of our accomplished group here at Better Recipes!)

This contest is unique because it is not only a fierce culinary competition, it is also the set of a major television production!  While knives are chopping and grills are firing, cameras are rolling to capture every move.  Every moment is pure excitement!

Not only that, contestants have these two fine gentlemen watching their every move and interviewing them while cooking!  Here is a glimpse of Jamie and Bobby Deen chatting before the big show begins, making sure everything goes smoothly when the cameras roll.

The judges look on with anticipation to taste the contestants mouth-watering dishes.  As experts in their field, they critique the recipe, the preparation and, of course, the wine pairing.

The “Beringer Great Steak Challenge” airs throughout the summer on Cooking Channel.  You can watch it this weekend, 5/19 at 6:30 PM and 5/20 at 4:30 PM.  It will also air 6/7 at 9:30 PM and 1:30 AM, 6/9 at 8:00 AM and 6/10 at 10:30 AM.

Spoiler Alert!  If you haven’t watched the show yet, bookmark this page and come back later.  Otherwise, get ready to see the outstanding winning recipes and Beringer wine pairings!

The $25,000 grand prize went to Kristin Davis from Easthampton, MA.  

Kristin says “My dish, Thai Lemongrass Tenderloin Skewers, is all about balance. A bold spicy sauce follows the rules by combining hot, sweet, salty, and sour. This balance lays the perfect framework for a crisp, fruity, well-balanced wine. The Beringer Founders’ Estate Sauvignon Blanc has the strength of flavor to stand up against the intense sauce, while still accenting the light freshness of the cucumber slaw.”

Thai Lemongrass Tenderloin Skewers  (click here to view and print recipe)

6 Beef tenderloin steaks (6oz each)

6 lemongrass stalks

Salt and pepper


4-5 large cloves garlic

1/4 cup of fresh ginger

5-6 Red bird’s eye chilies (the really small ones)

1/2 cup soy bean paste

1/2 cup Brown sugar

1/4 cup White vinegar

1/4 cup Dark Sweet soy sauce

1/4 cup Fish sauce

Cucumber slaw:

1 English cucumbers

1/4 cup Rice wine vinegar

1 tbsp Sesame Oil


In a food processor, combine sauce ingredients and pulse until coarse puree. Pour into a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Cook for 30 seconds; remove from heat. Use small individual serving dishes. Generously salt and pepper steaks. Use a knife sharpening steel to pierce a hole in the center of each steak, skewer with lemongrass stalk. Over medium high, sear steaks on all sides until desired doneness.

Slaw: Julienne cucumber into matchstick-like pieces. In a large bowl, toss cucumber with vinegar and sesame oil. Serve atop steak.

2nd place and $7,500 went to Larry Elder from Charlotte, NC.

Larry says, “Tenderloin is my favorite cut of beef as it is big on taste and smooth on texture. I wanted to create a recipe that would be enhanced by my favorite Beringer wine, the Founders’ Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. The first thing that came to mind was chocolate and I suspected cocoa powder might give the beef an earthy flavor. It needed something else to round out the taste so I incorporated horseradish mustard for a little kick and caramel topping for a bit of sweetness. A splash of fresh lime juice adds a fresh acidity and helps bring all the flavors together.”

Cocoa-Dusted Tenderloin with Caramel Mustard  (click here to view and print recipe)

1/2 cup butterscotch caramel topping

2 tablespoons horseradish (or wasabi) mustard

2 tablespoons lime juice

6 (6-oz. each) tenderloin steaks

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

Optional garnish: additional slices of fresh lime


Drizzle: Preheat grill to medium-high. In a small saucepan whisk together caramel topping, mustard and lime juice. Place on grill until warm and well blended.

Rub steaks with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill to desired doneness, about 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Just before removing from the grill, dust top of each steak very lightly with cocoa. Remove from grill. Let sit for about 5 minutes, then serve with sauce, garnished with lime slices, if desired. Yield: 6 servings.

3rd place and $2,500 went to Mary Hawkes from Prescott, AZ.  

Mary says, “My ribeye recipe brings those influences together in a warm salsa cruda that makes a complex addition to the juicy tenderness of the ribeye. The Beringer Founders’ Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is a delightful pairing with this steak. The full-flavored steak along with the earthy flavors of the olives, fresh parsley, cheese, lemons, and sweetness of the grill-roasted tomatoes bring out the nuances of the complex flavors of this fruity Cabernet Sauvignon.”

Tuscan Ribeye with Bocconcini Salsa  (click here to view and print recipe)

1-1/2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning (unsalted)

1-1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves

1-1/2 teaspoons grated fresh garlic

1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

1 (10 to 12-ounce) container marinated bocconcini (bite-size mozzarella), drained, reserving 1 tablespoon marinade; bocconcini quartered

2 well-trimmed boneless beef ribeye steaks, 1-1/4 inches thick (about 1-1/2 pounds each), room temperature

1-1/2 cups small grape tomatoes, assorted colors

1/3 cup halved pitted kalamata olives

2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice


Mix Italian seasoning, rosemary, garlic, salt, zest, pepper and reserved tablespoon of marinade; rub onto steaks. Prepare gas grill for medium-high heat. Place steaks on oiled grill rack; grill, covered, to desired doneness, about 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Let rest 5 minutes. Place tomatoes in a grill basket; grill 3 to 4 minutes, until starting to soften.

Prepare salsa: mix tomatoes, bocconcini, olives, parsley and juice. Slice steaks diagonally across the grain into 1/2-inch thick slices, divide onto 6 plates; top with salsa. Serves 6.

Pillsbury Bake-Off Grand Prize Winner

5 Comments | Written on April 20, 2012 at 5:00 am , by

Have you ever wondered what $1,000,000 looks like?  It doesn’t always come in stacks of large bills, sometimes it’s a little sweeter…

Take a look at the delicious dessert above.  It recently earned the top spot and the million dollar prize at the 2012 Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest!

The winning recipe, Pumpkin Ravioli with Salted Caramel Whipped Cream, was created by the phenomenal Tina Verrelli.  She also just happens to be a member here on Better Recipes!

You may remember her from a couple of our previous contests.  Tina’s “La Taverna Tapas Burgers” won our Grill-Off Contest last summer and her recipe for “Peppermint Ganache Thumbprint Cookies” won the Peppermint Contest back in December.

I hope this motivates all of you to be a part of the weekly contests here on Better Recipes!  It’s a great way to get those creative juices flowing every week, create new recipes, and be a part of this award-winning cooking community!

I had the pleasure of congratulating Tina just moments after her big win at the Pillsbury Bake-Off.  Things just seem right in the world when amazing things happen to wonderful people.  Tina is so warm and generous with her effervescent personality, you can’t help but smile in her presence!

The question is…how do you take Pillsbury’s refrigerated dough and turn it into ravioli?  The winning recipe is not only easy to prepare, it’s a lot of fun!  These step-by-step photos break it down.

1.  Roll out the Pillsbury Crescent Recipe Creations into a  14 x 12 inch rectangle.

2.  Lightly score the dough halfway horizontally, about 7 inches up from the bottom.

3.  On the bottom half, score the dough into 12 squares, about 3 x 2 1/4 inch each.

4.  Spoon a heaping tablespoon of the filling into each square.

5.  Fold over the other half of the dough.  (See, it’s starting to look like ravioli!)

6.  Seal the ravioli squares.   I used the bottom of a wooden spoon to make a series of small indentations, but Tina shows a slightly different technique on the Pillsbury website.  Both work great!

7.  Check out those adorable ravioli desserts!

8.  Poke a hole in the top of each square.  This allows the steam to escape while the ravioli are cooking in the oven.

9.  Cut out each ravioli square and they are ready to bake!

The Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest is always magical, and this year was no exception!  For the first time ever, Martha Stewart took her show on the road and broadcast live from the Peabody Hotel in Orlando.  You can see the beautiful set, the anxious audience and the TV cameras ready to capture every moment.

Martha was an outstanding host and we all hope to see her and the doughboy reunite for the next contest in 2014!

Pumpkin Ravioli with Salted Caramel Whipped Cream  (click here to view and print recipe)

4 tablespoons LAND O LAKES Butter, melted

2 packages (3 oz each) cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup canned pumpkin


1/2 teaspoon McCormick Pure Vanilla Extract

1/4 cup sugar

5 tablespoons Pillsbury BEST All Purpose Flour

1/2 teaspoon McCormick Pumpkin Pie Spice

1/3 cup Fisher Chef’s Naturals Chopped Pecans, finely chopped

2 cans Pillsbury Crescent Recipe Creations® refrigerated seamless dough sheet

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1/8 teaspoon salt

5 tablespoons Hershey’s caramel syrup

4 tablespoons McCormick Cinnamon Sugar


Heat oven to 375°F. Brush 2 large cookie sheets with 2 tablespoons of the melted butter. In large bowl, beat cream cheese and pumpkin with electric mixer on medium speed about 1 minute or until smooth. Add egg yolk, vanilla, sugar, 3 tablespoons of the flour and pumpkin pie spice; beat on low speed until blended. Reserve 4 teaspoons of the pecans; set aside. Stir remaining pecans into pumpkin mixture.

Lightly sprinkle work surface with 1 tablespoon of the flour. Unroll 1 can of dough on floured surface with 1 short side facing you. Press dough into 14×12-inch rectangle. With paring knife, lightly score the dough in half horizontally. Lightly score bottom half of dough into 12 squares (3×2 1/4-inch each). Spoon heaping tablespoon of the pumpkin filling onto center of each square. Gently lift and position unscored half of dough over filling. Starting at the top folded edge, press handle of wooden spoon firmly between mounds and along edges of pumpkin filling to seal. Using toothpick, poke small hole in top of each ravioli. Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut between each ravioli; place 1 inch apart on cookie sheets. Repeat with remaining 1 tablespoon flour, dough sheet and filling. Brush ravioli with remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter.

Bake 9 to 14 minutes or until golden brown.

Meanwhile, in medium bowl, beat whipping cream and salt with electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. Beat in 2 tablespoons of the caramel syrup until stiff peaks form. Transfer to serving bowl; cover and refrigerate.

Remove ravioli from oven. Sprinkle ravioli with 2 tablespoons cinnamon sugar; turn. Sprinkle with remaining cinnamon sugar.

To serve, place 2 ravioli on each of 12 dessert plates. Drizzle each serving with scant teaspoon of the caramel syrup; sprinkle with reserved chopped pecans. With spoon, swirl remaining 1 tablespoon caramel syrup into bowl of whipped cream. Serve warm ravioli with whipped cream.

Nutritional Information:

1 Serving (1 Serving)Calories 380(Calories from Fat 220),Total Fat 25g(Saturated Fat 13g,Trans Fat 1/2g),Cholesterol 70mg;Sodium 440mg;Total Carbohydrate 35g(Dietary Fiber 1g,Sugars 16g),Protein 4g;Percent Daily Value*:Vitamin A 45.00%;Vitamin C 0.00%;Calcium 6.00%;Iron 8.00%;Exchanges:1 1/2 Starch;0 Fruit;1 Other Carbohydrate;0 Skim Milk;0 Low-Fat Milk;0 Milk;0 Vegetable;0 Very Lean Meat;0 Lean Meat;0 High-Fat Meat;4 1/2 Fat;Carbohydrate Choices:2;*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Fitness Friday #7: The Doughboy and the Half-Marathon

1 Comment | Written on March 30, 2012 at 5:00 am , by

You may be wondering what “fitness friday” and the Pillsbury Doughboy have in common?  As it turns out quite a bit!  One of the first contestants I met in Orlando this past weekend was Cameron Bailey, from Salt Lake City, UT.  We chatted in the lobby and he told me that he arrived in Florida a day early in order to compete in a half-marathon!  Needless to say I was quite impressed!

Cameron said that no matter the outcome of the million dollar contest, he wanted to come home from Florida with a feeling of accomplishment.  Isn’t that a fantastic attitude?  I told him that I was about to give my first half-marathon a try and he offered some wonderful words of encouragement.

As it turns out his athletic training came in handy during the cooking competition.  Cameron was the last of the 100 contestants to submit his recipe, and had to literally RUN to the judges table at 11:59 for the Noon deadline!

His decadent and delicious recipe also reminds me once again that it is all about moderation.  I love sliders because they allow a smaller portion size of an indulgent item.

Bacon-Chicken Sliders with Raspberry-Onion Spread   (click here to view and print recipe)

1 can Pillsbury® Place ‘n Bake® refrigerated crescent rounds

1 LAND O LAKES® Egg, beaten

1 to 2 teaspoons McCormick® Poppy Seed

1 tablespoon Crisco® Pure Vegetable Oil

1 cup chopped red onions

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon McCormick® Ground Black Pepper

1 cup Progresso® chicken broth

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup Smucker’s® Red Raspberry Preserves

1/4 cup Smucker’s® Apricot Preserves

1 boneless skinless chicken breast, cooked, thinly sliced

4 slices hickory-smoked bacon, crisply cooked, broken in half

1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves

Heat oven to 375°F. Line large cookie sheet with cooking parchment paper. Place crescent rounds on cookie sheet; press each crescent into 2 1/2-inch round. Brush with egg; sprinkle with poppy seed.

Bake 8 to 13 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack.

Meanwhile, in 10-inch skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions, salt and pepper; cook 3 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently, or until onions are tender. Add chicken broth and balsamic vinegar; cook 12 to 17 minutes or until sauce is reduced by half. Stir in red raspberry and apricot preserves; cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently, or until slightly thickened. Cool 5 minutes.

Cut each crescent round in half horizontally. Place bottoms of buns on serving platter; top each with 2 teaspoons of the onion mixture, chicken, bacon, cilantro and top of bun.

Nutritional Information:

1 Serving:  Calories 250(Calories from Fat 100),Total Fat 11g(Saturated Fat 3g,Trans Fat 1 1/2g),Cholesterol 40mg;Sodium 500mg;Total Carbohydrate 28g(Dietary Fiber 0g,Sugars 13g),Protein 8g;Percent Daily Value*:Vitamin A 0.00%;Vitamin C 2.00%;Calcium 2.00%;Iron 8.00%;Exchanges:2 Starch;0 Fruit;0 Other Carbohydrate;0 Skim Milk;0 Low-Fat Milk;0 Milk;0 Vegetable;0 Very Lean Meat;0 Lean Meat;0 High-Fat Meat;2 Fat;Carbohydrate Choices:2;*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Once again I wanted to leave you with a little inspiration to take with you into the weekend.  The photo above was taken from a window at the Peabody Hotel as the sun rose in Orlando the day of the Pillsbury Bake-Off!   Have a fantastic weekend everyone!

What’s Cooking Behind the Scenes at the Pillsbury Bake-Off

1 Comment | Written on March 15, 2012 at 5:00 am , by

Did you know in just a few short weeks one very lucky home cook will be a Millionaire?!  That’s right, the legendary Pillsbury Bake-Off is right around the corner!

I am thrilled to be traveling down to Orlando with Pillsbury to cover the contest again this year.  In fact, I will be a contributing writer to the “Behind the Scenes” blog on!

My first story was just posted yesterday.  Click on this link to read all about my unique family history with the Pillsbury Bake-Off:

Three Generations of Bake-Off Fun

That’s right!  My grandmother, my mother and I have all been finalists in this phenomenal cooking competition.  Stay tuned to for more of our posts leading up to the Bake-Off, as well as up to date information from the contestants and the winner!

In the meantime, I thought I would post the two recipes that took me to the Pillsbury Bake-Off years ago.  I competed with this first recipe when I was only 12 years old!  It is a light and fruity dessert, perfect to serve in Spring.  This recipe won $2,000 in the “desserts” category.

Raspberry-Filled Apricot Cake  (click here to view and print recipe)


1 Pkg  (1 Lb. 2.25-oz.)yellow Cake Mix, with pudding

1 1/3 cups Apricot Nectar

2 Eggs


1 cup Raspberry Spreadable Fruit or Jam


1 pkg (1-oz) Sugar-free Vanilla Instant Pudding Mix

1/2 cup Skim or Low-fat Milk

2 Tbsp Apricot Nectar

1 (8-oz) Frozen Light Whipped Topping, thawed

3 Tbsp Coconut, toasted


Heat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease and flour two 9- or 8-inch round cake pans.

In large bowl, combine cake mix, 1-1/3 cup apricot nectar and eggs at low speed until moistened; beat 2 minutes at high speed.

Pour into greased and floured pans.

Bake 350 F for 25 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. (Bake 8-inch pans 30 to 40 min.) Cool 15 minutes; remove from pans.  Cool completely.

To assemble cake, slice each cake layer in half horizontally to make 4 layers.

Place 1 cake layer cut side up on serving plate; spread with 1/3 cup spreadable fruit.

Repeat 2nd & 3rd layers with fruit.

Top with remaining cake layer.

In small bowl combine pudding mix, milk and 2 T apricot nectar; blend well.

Add thawed whip topping beat at low speed 2 minutes. Frost sides and top of cake.

Sprinkle top with toasted coconut.

Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. Store in refrigerator. Tip: to toast coconut, spread on cookie sheet; bake at 350 for 7 to 8 min. or until golden brown, stirring occasionally.

I attended the contest again in 2000 when I was in college.  I may not have walked away with the $1,000,000 prize, but my recipe did make it on the cover of the Pillsbury Bake-Off Cookbook!

Smoky Southwestern Shepard’s Pie  (click here to view and print recipe)  


1 1/2 lb Lean Ground Beef, such as ground round

1/2 cup Chopped Onion

2 cups Water

3 Tbsp Margarine or Butter

1/2  tsp Salt

3/4 cup Milk

2 cups Instant Mashed Potato Flakes

1 (4.5-oz.) Can Chopped Green Chilies

4 oz (1 Cup) Shredded Mexican-blend Cheese

1 (10-oz.) Can Enchilada Sauce

1 or 2 Canned Chipotle Chilies In Adobo Sauce, drained, seeded and chopped

1/2 tsp Ground Cumin

1/2 tsp Dried Oregano Leaves

1 (11-oz.) Can Vacuum-packed Whole Kernel Corn With Red & Green Peppers, drained

1/8 tsp Paprika

1/3 cup sliced Green Onions

1 Small Tomato, cut into 6 wedges


Heat oven to 400 degrees. In large skillet, brown ground beef with onion over medium-high heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until beef is thoroughly cooked, stirring frequently. Meanwhile, in medium saucepan, combine water, margarine and salt. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Stir in milk and potato flakes. Cover; let stand 5 minutes. Stir in green chilies and 1/2 cup of the cheese. Drain beef mixture. Add enchilada sauce, chipotle chilies, cumin and oregano; mix well. Bring just to a boil. Remove from heat. Spread beef mixture in ungreased shallow 2-quart casserole or baking dish. Top with corn. Spread potatoes evenly over corn. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake for 13 to 17 minutes or until cheese is melted and filling is bubbly. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. To garnish, sprinkle with paprika and green onions; arrange tomato wedges in center of casserole.

South Beach Food and Wine Festival

2 Comments | Written on March 7, 2012 at 5:00 am , by

The Food Network South Beach Wine and Food Festival is nothing short of a 24 hour a day party for 4 days straight!  I don’t think I have ever seen so many celebrity chefs, wine lovers, and food aficionados all in one place.  The signature event of the festival every year is the Amstel Light Burger Bash.

In a giant tent along the sandy beaches of Miami, a “who’s who” of the food world gathers to battle it out for the best burger.  It is the hottest ticket in town because the attendees have the opportunity to sample outstanding burgers from restaurants across the country.

Burger Bash by the Numbers:

32 hamburgers prepared by a culinary team of 192 representing 9 states, 11 cities in a 60,000 square foot venue, the length of 2 NFL football fields.

Over 12,000 pounds of 10 different varieties of ground meat to make up 65,000 burger portions

1,400 pounds of smoked bacon

1,800 pounds of 11 different cheeses

170 gallons of Heinz ketchup and mustard

75 cases of Cultivate wines

11,000 servings of Amstel Light Beer

80 gallons of frozen hot chocolate

3,500 + burger aficionados

The evening is hosted by Rachael Ray.  This year, for the first time, she was also a competetor!  Her “BBQ Burger with Sweet ‘n Spicy Pickles” featured a smokey barbeque sauce and homemade spicy pickles.

She faced stiff competition from Iron Chef Bobby Flay representing his restaurant “Bobby’s Burger Palace.”  He served a “Buffalo Style Burger Crunchified” featuring red hot sauce, blue cheese dressing and potato chips.

Top Chef All-Stars champ Richard Blais threw his hat into the ring with a dish from his restaurant Flip Burger Boutique in Atlanta, GA.  The “rBQ Burger” was prepared with fried pork belly, pimento cheese, B & B pickles, and smoked mayo.  On the side were Vodka Battered Onion Rings served with an Amstel Light Honey Mustard and Offal-tine Milkshake.

Guy Fieri showed up to represent his latest endeavor “Guy’s Burger Joint” onboard Carnival Cruise Lines.  His “Straight-Up with a Pig Patty” was 80/20 ground chuck, a liberal slathering of donkey sauce, all topped off with a bacon patty.  On the side were “Rojo Onion Rings” and “Salted Whiskey Caramel Shake.”

I have to say, that shake was hands down the best sweet treat of the night.  I just might have to try and re-create that one at home!  

 After hours of grazing and sipping, it was time to announce the winners!  Guy took the first prize of the night, the “Heinz Best Dressed Award” for the best burger toppings.  He was awarded a $1,000 check to his charity of choice.

Then it was time to announce the big winner – the Amstel Light People’s Choice Award, voted on by the crowd.  We were all given a token to vote for our favorite burger.  If you watch The Chew (or follow our Facebook or Twitter pages) you already know the outcome!

Michael Symon was the big winner of the evening for his “Porky Burger.”  From his restaurant “B Spot” this winning dish is a pork and bacon burger topped with pulled pork and slaw.  On the side Michael served Pork Cracklin’.

This burger was so unique and original!  It was packed with pork-tastic flavor and got my vote for the evening.  This was a three-peat for Michael, as he had won the Burger Bash twice before!  Needless to say, this guy knows his burgers!

The Chew produced a fun segment from South Beach, check it out!

And now, the moment you have all been waiting for…the winning recipe!

Michael Symon’s Award-Winning Porky Burger 


For the Burger:

8 ounce Ground Sirloin

8 ounce Ground Short Rib

8 ounce Ground Brisket

3 ounce Ground Bacon

Kosher Salt

Cracked Black Pepper

4 Brioche Buns

Pulled Pork Butt with C-Town BBQ Sauce

Cole Slaw


Olive Oil

For the Cole Slaw:

1 Head Savoy Cabbage (shredded)

3 Carrots (shredded)

5 Scallions (thinly sliced)

1 cup Cilantro (chopped)

1 cup Parsley (chopped)

1/3 cup Pickle Juice

1/2 cup Mayonnaise

1 tablespoon Salt

1.  For the burger: Build a medium-hot fire in your grill or preheat a stovetop grill pan.

2.  Combine all the meats together and form into 4 patties (about 3 1/2 inches in diameter each). Season the patties with salt and cracked black pepper, to taste. Make a thumbprint in the middle of the burger to keep from shrinking while cooking.

3.  Brush the outside of the patty with a little olive oil. Put the burgers on the grill or in the grill pan and cook for 3 minutes. Flip and grill for 3 minutes for medium- rare. Remove them to a plate.

4.  Put a small spread of mayonnaise on each bun and toast lightly on the grill.

5.  Build the burgers by sandwiching them between the brioche buns along with a spoonful of slaw and pulled pork butt BBQ.

6.  For the coleslaw: In a mixing bowl add chopped herbs to the shredded cabbage. Add the remaining ingredient and toss to combine. Add more salt if necessary.

If you want to watch Michael Symon demonstrate his winning recipe, check out this segment from The Chew: 

Top Ten Staples of Peruvian Cuisine

11 Comments | Written on March 1, 2012 at 5:00 am , by

Peruvian food is undoubtedly a unique and flavorful cuisine, but it is also still very accessible to the American palate.  In an effort to sum up some of the interesting and delicious items I sampled while in Peru, I decided to assemble this list of  my “Top Ten” staples of the food culture.  Every ingredient or recipe tells a story of the country or of my experience traveling in Peru.  This photo features one of my favorites, “lucuma pudding.”  Also notice the colorful handmade placemat I bought in the Pisac Market!

Top Ten Staples of Peruvian Cuisine

10.  Lucuma

Lucuma is a fruit unique the Peru’s Andean region.  Some say it tastes like a cross between maple and sweet potato, but honestly, I think it tastes like butterscotch!  In fact, when South America was first colonized, the conquistadors used to refer to lucuma as “butterscotch fruit!”  It was one of the most unique fruits I have ever tasted.

Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to find this fruit fresh in our markets here.  However, I was blown away when I found “Lucuma Powder” right there in Whole Foods!  That’s when I decided to get creative…

When I tasted this fruit in Peru, it was in the form of a pudding for dessert.  It was hands down the best “butterscotch” pudding I had ever tasted!  (Not the unbearable sweet stuff that is so often served in the US.)  They drizzled a bit of chocolate on top and offered an extra bowl just in case you wanted a little more on the side.  I set out to try and recreate this pudding using the lucuma powder from Whole Foods.  The result was a close match!  Of course, it could never compare to the dessert made from the fresh fruit, but if you want to try something new and unique, give lucuma powder a go!

Peruvian Lucuma Pudding  (click here to view and print recipe)  

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup lucuma powder

3/4 cup sugar

3 cups whole milk

4 egg yolks

Chocolate ice cream topping

In a medium saucepan, combine cornstarch, salt, lucuma powder, and sugar. Before placing on the stove, whisk in the milk. Place saucepan over medium heat, and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture comes to a hard boil. Stir constantly 1 minute. Take the saucepan off the heat. Place the egg yolks in a small bowl. Add about a 1/2 cup of the hot liquid to the egg yolks and whisk quickly. Add the tempered egg yolks to the rest of the mixture and whisk to combine. Place back on the stove. Bring to a boil once again and stir constantly for 1-2 minutes, or until the pudding thickens. Divide into 4 (1 cup) serving dishes. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing wrap directly on top of pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Before serving, drizzle with chocolate ice cream topping, and serve extra chocolate on the side.

9.  Inca Kola

Ok, so this might not be the most “gourmet” food to mention, but while in Peru, you simply have to try it.  When I say try, I really mean take a small sip.  That is about all I could handle!  I had no idea what to expect.  This South American soda pop is said to have the flavor of lemongrass, but everyone claimed it tasted like bubble gum.  Well, they were right!  It was unbearably sweet and tasted like liquid bubbalicious.  The adults on this trip couldn’t handle more than a taste, while some of the kids seemed to love it!

8.  Sal Rosada

Gourmet Peruvian pink salt is absolutely marvelous.  This coarse salt is outstanding on fish or meat, tossed with roasted vegetables, or, my favorite, sprinkled on top of poached eggs.

I bought this bag right next to the salt pans of Maras.  These fascinating salt pan terraces have been mined by local families for over 500 years.  What a sight to behold!  We even had a chance to dip our fingers into the warm, salty stream that feeds into this area.  Just a small taste was enough, it was unbelievably salty!

7.  Quinoa

One of my absolute favorite staples of Peruvian cuisine is quinoa.  Whether is it white, red, black, or rainbow, I think this high protein grain is simply delicious.  We even enjoyed quinoa at breakfast in Peru by eating quinoa flakes!  They are delicious sprinkled on top of yogurt or warmed with milk like oatmeal.

Come back to The Daily Dish tomorrow for a fresh quinoa salad I created to taste exactly like one we enjoyed in Peru!

6.  Alpaca

Yes, these fluffy creatures are absolutely adorable.  They also happen to be delicious!

Llamas and alpaca thrive in this mountainous environment which is difficult for raising cattle.  Alpaca is the local alternative.

Yesterday I featured a recipe for “Lomo Saltado”.  I prepared it with beef, but I was lucky enough to enjoy the dish prepared with alpaca in Peru.  I have to admit, it might be one of my new favorite proteins!  The meat was very lean and flavorful.  Now, if I can just find a butcher in LA who carries it!

The fur from alpaca is lighter than wool and as soft as cashmere.  The markets are filled with hats, scarves, socks and ponchos made with alpaca.  Food and fashion…my two favorite things!

5.  Corn

Corn is another staple of the Peruvian culture and cuisine.

This purple corn is used to make a drink called “Chicha Morada.”  It can also be made into “Mazamorra Morada” a sweet pudding with cinnamon.

My favorite snack in Peru were these toasted corn kernels.  I would describe them like Corn Nuts, or maybe unpopped popcorn kernels, but much softer.  This bowl was brought out at the beginning of a meal in Lima to snack on while we sipped Pisco Sours.  I couldn’t get enough!  I even bought a little pack at the airport to take home and enjoy later.

4.  Coca Leaves

Yes, this is the same plant that is used to make cocaine.  No, you do not get high off of it!  Coca does contain alkaloids used to produce the illegal drug.  However the coca leaf is not cocaine, just as grapes are not wine.

When consumed in the form of hard candy or tea, it can actually help with altitude sickness.  Something you might need at 13,000 feet!

When we walked to this iconic view of Machu Picchu, we were given the option to take an extra 2 hour hike to the summit called “Sun Gate.”  There was no way I was going to travel all the way to Peru and not absorb every moment!  If the ancient Incas could do it, I certainly had to try.  Besides, I had the luxury of a walkway path and granite stairs (more on that in a moment).

When we reached the top, our guide, Ernesto, performed a quick ritual that is a sacred part of his Incan culture.  He gathered a few coca leaves in his hands and offered them up to the mountain as a way to say thank you to mother nature for protecting us on our journey.  After a moment he blew the coca leaves from his hands and they were carried away by the wind.  It was a touching and beautiful moment.  After our ascent up the mountain, I was ready to say “thank you” to her as well!

(Imagine this photo was taken around the corner and about 1,500 feet up from the previous image!)

It was worth every moment and sore muscle.  Honestly, it wasn’t too bad going up, I had more trouble coming down!  It began to rain, dirt turned to mud, and the rocks became as slick as ice.   My bum and the hard granite got to know each other well.  I might have wiped out a few times, but hey, that’s part of the adventure!

3.  Pisco

You can’t go to Peru without a few sips of this fantastic drink!  Pisco is a grape brandy, and when it is combined with a little sugar, citrus, and foamy egg whites, the result is outstanding.  Click here and check out my previous blog to learn how to make Peru’s signature cocktail!

2.  Potatoes

 Would you believe a place this magical was built by men fueled by potatoes?  We always associate potatoes with the Irish diet, but in fact they are a staple of Peruvian cuisine.

In fact, three thousand varieties of potatoes are found in the Andes.  Genetic testing has shown that most of the potatoes we consume today come from a single origin in the area of present-day southern Peru.  After the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire, the Spanish introduced the potato to Europe.  The tuber was then passed to other ports and territories across the globe by mariners.

1.  Cuy – a.k.a. “Guinea Pig”

Don’t say I didn’t warn you…the number one staple of Peruvian cuisine is not for the faint of heart.  “Cuy” or guinea pigs have been an important part of the culture for centuries.  They consume these little guys in the same way other cultures might eat rabbit.

 I know…it’s so wrong to post this photo.  But seriously, these adorable little guys were living in a pen outside a restaurant.  I suppose it is the equivalent of the tank you see at the front of any Red Lobster here in the US!

After the initial shock and horror, I am always asked, “So, what did it taste like?!”  First of all, it was more of an “experience” than a flavor.  I say it reminded me of the time I had to dissect a big in high school biology class.  When it is served up roasted and whole (eyes, teeth, and all!) you really have to dive in there and carve the meat.

In the end, it really just tasted like chicken thighs.  But you don’t normally have the chicken staring back at you!  File this under “been there, done that” but probably not venturing there again.  Don’t worry, your pets are safe.