Monday, June 21, 2010

Recap: Next Food Network Star Episode 3

I was on vacation last week so I wasn’t able to do a recap. In short, Doreen was voted off which I saw coming from a mile away.

Last night found our finalists without Bobby Flay which I found highly enjoyable as I am not a fan. (Apparently neither is my hubby since he quipped during the first episode “I hope they send the redheaded guy home!”) Stepping in as Bobby’s replacement was Guy Fieri.

The first challenge had the finalists creating dishes to match a movie theme that they drew out of a popcorn box. I find these challenges a little dumb. How do you prepare a dish that represents drama or sci-fi or anything? The finalists did their best efforts and then presented them on camera to Guy, Giada and Bob. Most of them did not fare well with their presentation efforts and some of them were chided for their interpretations. Das’s tacos were not “foreign” enough apparently. Aarti won thanks to a meatloaf with a glob of something resembling an eye on top.

Moving along the finalists were then taken to a red carpet and critiqued on how they handled attention from fans and the press. Guy stood at the end of the carpet muttering comments. Brianna loved the attention but had nothing to say to any of her admirers. Das gave a token “What’s up?” or something to everyone. Dzintra twirled and danced her way down the carpet and spoke nonsense to the media. Paul was obnoxious as usual. Basically, these folks have a lot of work to do to become “stars”.

The final challenge was to pair up the finalists, give them kooky food combinations and ask them to prepare food for a party that included Colbie Caillat. Paul was less than thrilled to be paired up with Serena since he is a professional chef and she is a lowly home cook. Brianna and Herb were the self-proclaimed Team Sexy, Tom and Das were paired up and seemed to have the most fun. Brad was teamed with Aarti and then there was the unlikely pairing of Dzintra and Aria. Ditzy claimed that Aria didn’t seem to trust her skills. Can’t say I blame her with some of the stunts that Dzintra has pulled so far this season.

While dashing through the kitchen, Serena has her foot stepped on by Brianna. Brianna says it was Serena’s fault for having her foot in the way. Serena soldiers on though and produces a tension filled selection of food with Paul. While their distaste for each other is clear, their collaborative dish is a hit. Tom and Das whip up an inedible dish but they are just so darn cute and funny that no one seems to find. Team Sexy is tops in food even if Brianna’s personality is still lacking. Arai tries to lead her team’s presentation but is “shushed” by Dzintra who wants to talk.

During evaluation, Paul begins explaining that Serena was working in her “home cooking way”. Guy immediately shuts him up, reminds him that many of Food Network’s biggest stars are NOT trained chefs and the competition is “anyone’s to lose”. Go Guy! It was reminiscent of Bobby Flay telling Teddy last season that a little chivalry goes a long way in the kitchen. The bottom dwellers this week were Paul (again), Dzintra (again), Serena and Aria. The judges seem to be losing their loving feeling for Aria but ditzy Dzintra was too much for them. She was sent packing.
Right now, I really like Serena, Aarti, Herb and Tom. Tom’s food never really looks that good but it’s the shaggy dog thing. Paul and Brianna would be my picks for instant kick-off.

Next week, I predict Paul will be packing his apron.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Good Places to Eat in Richmond, KY: Jadeli

I've decided to start posting an occasional review of local eateries in my area. I'm starting with one of my favorites: Jadeli.

If you are traveling through Richmond, you might not notice Jadeli. It's tucked away in a tiny shopping center on the EKU By-pass next to a nail salon. You should definitely find it though because they offer one of the best sandwiches around. They are also locally owned and operated. They serve Boar's Head meats and cheeses which are also available for take home along with other Boar's Head products like their dressing and bacon.

Jadeli occupies the former home of a Quiznos and the setup is similiar. Your bread, meat and cheese slides through an oven and is then topped with your choice of fresh additions. You can build your own sandwich or try one of their specialites. I love the Mt Veg which is Provolone cheese melted on Honey Wheatberry bread and then topped with your choice of veggies and their wonderful Gourmaise dressing. When I crave something meatier, I go for the Spicy Cajun which is Cajun turkey topped with Pepperjack cheese and choice of veggie toppings. Pickle spears are free and you can make your sammy a combo by adding chips and a drink for around $6 or $7 depending on the sandwich.

Service is friendly, the place is always clean, and the food is terrific. Subway only wishes they could serve up a sandwich like Jadeli.

Back From Vacation

I'm back in town after a few nights in the Pigeon Forge, Tennessee area. I absolutely love that place. It's flashy, tacky, overpriced and in my eyes, a little slice of heaven. We vacationed there when I was a kid, Hubby and I got married there, and because of these wonderful memories, it's sort of my "happy place".

I did a lot of outlet mail shopping (Eddie Bauer jeans for $9.99!), ate a lot of ice cream from Ben and Jerry's Scoop Shop and just relaxed. I picked up some salsas and dip mixes from Harry and David and a new Lodge Cast cast iron sautee pan. I guess even when I'm not eating, food is on my mind!

We took some snacks with us so I cashed in my free coupons from Kraft First Taste for the Oscar Mayer ham and the Ritz Crackerfuls. I'd had the ham before but the Ritz product was a new one for me. It was very good, very full of cheese and my picky Hubby really liked them. In fact, he asked me to pick up another box this week. They are individually wrapped so they are very handy to pack along as a snack or lunch box treat.

Now that vacation is over, it's time to get back to the grind of work. Ugh!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Kraft First Taste=Awesome Free Stuff

I may have said it once but let me say it again, Kraft First Taste is awesome!

You can sign up here on their website and you'll be elgible to get a "first taste" of new products from Kraft. I've been a member for about a year and I have tried free Velveeta Mac and Cheese, free Digiorno 200 Calorie pizza, free Philly Minis cream cheese, just to name a few. This week I received an awesome load of free coupons in the mail.

All you do is sign up, then log in occasionally to see what offers you have. If you see something that interests you, you just click, confirm your mailing address and wait for your coupons. There are also opportunities to complete surveys and polls. I suspect that the more active you are, the more opportunities but I can't prove it. Honestly, I do not remember to log in but maybe once a month so I'm probably missing out on some good deals.

The bounty I received this week are coupons for:

FREE Kool Aid Fun Fizz Drink Drops
FREE Kraft Homestyle Mac and Cheese Dinner
FREE Deep Dish Digorno Pizza
FREE Kraft 100 Calorie Packs of Cheese Bits
FREE Oscar Mayer Deli Fresh Shaved Meats
FREE Ritz Crackerfuls Filled Crackers

Over $20 of free stuff! I love it!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

How the Garden Grows

I need to take some pictures so that I can share my humble little herb garden with you.

This is, I think, the third summer that I’ve had a small herb garden. A few years ago, we remodeled our deck somewhat and ended up some scrap pieces of treated lumber. I fashioned them into a little raised bed and voila! The herb garden was born.

Chives come back each year with no coaxing or effort on my part. Lavender moved in last year and is back this year threatening to take over the bed. Mint is sprouting everywhere. It was also an addition from last year that decided to come back. I also added in some thyme that is transplanted from my mother’s garden, some parsley in a pot and a pot of basil. Last year I tried cilantro in a pot with limited success. This year I planted the cilantro directly in the ground.

In addition to the herbs, I also have a watermelon plant that was my hubby’s idea. I’m really not sure it will have room to spread out and possibly produce a watermelon but I figure we can give it a try. We also planted three hot pepper plants (again the hubby’s idea). I’ve never actually seen this man eat a hot pepper but he insists that he likes them.

During Memorial Day weekend, my niece wanted to plant some seeds. She is almost six and has been helping me garden ever since she was big enough to follow me around. Her grandmother told her it was too late to plant flower seeds but I thought maybe we could get some pumpkin seeds up and going in time for a fall harvest. I was shocked at how quick the seeds sprouted and now I have three healthy looking pumpkin plants. No clue yet on where I’m going to plant them. My mother keeps reminding me that due to last year’s pumpkin shortage, it is very hard to find canned pumpkin so I really hope these plants can produce.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Next Food Network Star: Recap of Episode 1 Season 6

Season 6 of Next Food Network Star kicked off last night with a two hour premiere. The Food Network had been counting down the hours all day long via a running clock in the top right hand corner of the screen. I admit I bought into the hype and was downright giddy by the time 9pm eastern rolled around.

This year’s show takes place in Los Angeles. We meet the finalists one by one as they roll into their lodging, squealing and slinging luggage around.

Paul informs us that he knows he will win the competition which makes me instantly dislike him.

Herb is a personal chef and personal trainer which intrigues me since Food Network doesn’t have a chef that fits that criteria and I would certainly watch.

Tom is a big, shaggy dog of a man whom I instantly like because I like shaggy dogs.
He’s also been unemployed for 16 months so he probably needs the work.

Dzintra bears a striking resemblance to Sandra Lee and prides herself on being quirky. As the show progressed, it became apparent that “quirky” translates to “bizarre” in the eyes of her fellow contestants.

Speaking of look a likes, we have Brianna who could pass for Beyonce’s twin and considers herself a diva.

Doreen is sort of hard to peg down. Nothing stands out about her in her initial introduction and this will prove to be a problem later on down the road.

Aria is a cheerful and likable mother of a toddler. She puts said tot’s picture up immediately which makes me fear that she will sob throughout the show about missing her kid. I misjudged.

Aarti is Indian, very pretty and I love the jaunty flowers she wears in her hair.

Brad is sort of a non stand out personality wise although he later proves that still waters run deep (or at least they can cook). His trademark is his flat hat which belonged to his grandfather and is his good luck charm.

I like Das upon his introduction but soon it becomes obvious that Das really likes Das.

Serena is a lawyer, not a professional chef, so that makes me cheer for her. She’s also an Italian spitfire that will probably provide some spark to the show.

And finally there’s Alexis who seems sure of himself at the start but quickly falls apart.

The judges are the usual suspects. Bobby Flay, chef and network darling, Bob Tuschman, senior VP of Programming and Production and Susie Fogleson, senior VP of Marketing. Also, this year the finalists have a mentor in the form of network star Giada De Laurentiis.

There’s no rest for the weary and the finalists are rushed to the NFNS set for their first challenge. The challenge is to create a dish that explains who they are and their “culinary point of view”. The dish must feature chicken and potatoes and they have 45 minutes to complete it.

It’s a mad rush of pots, pans and furious chopping. Once their meal is done, a second part of the challenge presents itself: the finalists must present their dish to the judges in front of a camera.

The results are mixed. Aria blows the judges away with her presentation and her food. Tom seems genuinely miserable in front of the camera. Herb impresses with his presentation and his food. Das and Aarti both serve up raw chicken. Doreen fails to deliver on who she is. At the end, Aria and Herb are declared winners and Tom and Das are said to be the bottom two. The finalists are sent home (where apparently Herb makes them work out in their spare time) to prepare for the next challenge.

The next challenge also involves the camera. The finalists must write a script, choose a set and props and film a 15 second commercial with the assistance of a Hollywood director and Giada. This segment was rather long and became somewhat stale. Highlights were Paul seemingly impersonating the Sham-Wow guy, Dzintra hugging her fellow contestants and yelling “Have my babies!” when finished filming, another stellar performance from Aria and redemption for Tom who found his personality.

Next, the finalists are divided into teams with Aria and Herb being leaders and able to choose their teammates. Aria chooses Dzintra first for the gray team and gives her the dessert round which royally ticks her off. Alexis fears being chosen last and being stuck with dessert and-surprise!-his fears are met head on when Herb chooses him for dessert as the last member of the black team. The teams are commanded to whip up a meal that will be served to a Wolfgang Puck. No pressure.
As usual with this show, the contestants must shop for their ingredients which means that someone’s ingredients will be forgotten and something will go wrong. In this episode, there was no veal for Serena’s dish and Herb brought home frozen, bony salmon for Brad. Brad is ticked. In the meantime, Dzintra (who tells us repeatedly that she is preparing a dessert ONLY she can make) begins to have an issue with her eye. After repeated trips to the bathroom and a visit from a medic, she leaves the challenge to go to the ER. This leaves Aria and Tom scrambling to create the dessert which causes them to slightly neglect their own dishes.

Oddly enough, the food is not served immediately but rather the finalists go home and serve to Wolfgang the next day. While at home, they trash talk Dzintra since the majority of them feel they would have played through the pain rather than quit the challenge. Personally, I was more grossed out by the way she was rubbing her eye then touching the food but that’s just me.

So, the next day the cooks prepare to serve their food to the judges, Giada and Wolfgang. And lo and behold, who shows up but Dzintra? She’s not able to finish her dessert but she’s sure able to criticize what Tom and Aria have made. Along with each dish, the finalists serve up their 15 second promos for the panel.
Despite Aria’s appetizer not being sufficiently brown, Tom’s pork being dry and Paul’s salad being overdressed, the gray team won the challenge. The black team struggled with Doreen not having enough time to finish her soup and Alexis’s dessert being called “inedible” by Wolfgang Puck. Poor Alexis was nearly driven to tears. On the flip side, Brad’s salmon was highly praised by all judges especially Puck.
If he can come out of his shell and show some personality, he can be successful.

Aria was named the overall winner by the judges. It is clear that she can do no wrong at this point and the competition is hers to lose. Dzintra put the judges in a “pickle” according to Bobby Flay since she didn’t cook anything but had to discontinue for medical reasons. Maybe it wouldn’t have been fair to disqualify her since she did have a health issue BUT she certainly didn’t endear herself to anyone by acting embarrassed of the dessert that her teammates made in her absence likening it to “your egg being in someone else’s womb”. The judges allow her to stay though.

The bottom three finalists were Das, Alexis and Doreen. I felt pretty certain Alexis would be the one chopped and he was. He just never got up to speed and the harsh criticism from Wolfgang Puck clearly shook him to the core. Das and Doreen better step it up or they will be close behind him.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Sugar Cream Pie

A few weeks ago, my hubby watched Paula Deen with me and this sugar cream pie caught his eye. I also thought it looked simple and yummy so I decided to try it. I usually read the reviews before I try a Food Network recipe. To say the reviews of this are mixed would be an understatement. People seemed to be either raving about the pie or slamming it. One of the great controversies was whether or not to whip the whipping cream. The recipe does not say to whip but on the video clip, Paula’s cream does appear to be whipped. There were also comments that the baking time is not long enough and many people wrote that their pie did not set correctly.

After much debate, I decided to follow the recipe as written except that I did add a teaspoon of vanilla and I used cinnamon instead of nutmeg. It turned out wonderfully. Served cold, it’s a very cool and creamy dessert. It is extremely sweet and rich. Hubby wasn’t crazy about it but both of our mothers and I liked it. I would make it again.

• 1 1/3 cups sugar
• 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, unsifted
• 1/2 pint (1 cup) whipping cream
• 3/4 cup milk
• 1 (9-inch) unbaked pie shell
• 2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
• Pinch nutmeg


Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Combine sugar, flour, cream, and milk in a mixing bowl. Pour into pie shell. Dot butter bits all around top of pie. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Bake for approximately 10 minutes, and then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and cook for approximately 30 more minutes. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until chilled. Serve chilled.

Cook's Note: If using a glass baking dish, lower oven temperature by 25 degrees F.