August 1, 2011 at 10:34 am , by Megan Weiss
Food Network Star contestant, Kelsey Nixon, shares her passion for cooking in the hit Cooking Channel show Kelsey’s Essentials. We got to know her better when she told LHJ some of her favorite culinary memories and gave us her list of “essentials” in the kitchen.
Who do you feel is your biggest female inspiration in the kitchen?
My mother. My mother worked a full time job but looked forward to cooking for us every week. Since she was so busy we would make a family schedule for what she wanted to cook each week. Whether it was recipes from magazines she wanted to try to her own signature dishes, we would map it out for the week. For me, that’s where I learned to love cooking and the way I approach cooking. Her attitude toward cooking was always something pleasurable and something to look forward to.
Now that you are on the second season of your show, Do you think being on Food Network Star prepared you for being in front of the camera?
It did. I don’t know how I survived. Most of the challenges I was put through were challenged me to do things similar to my own show. Thinking on your feet, adjusting to whatever may happen in the kitchen and developing recipes at a moments notice. It really helps you to know who you are and what your brand stands for.
You are known for your pantry cooking episodes, what are some pantry staples you like for each meal?
For breakfast, things like oatmeal and pancake mix are great and versatile. And although it’s not a pantry item, something I always try to have on hand is fresh berries and fruit. For lunch I love sandwiches. I could eat a sandwich every day for the rest of my life. Good bread, meat and cheeses are important to have on hand. I also keep a chart on my refrigerator of what produce is in season so I know what to purchase. For dinner I always love to have good canned tomatoes and pasta so I can make a quick tomato sauce. Fresh herbs are great as well, they will bring any dish to life.
How do you start brainstorming for new recipes?
I try to follow food trends. Whether that means reading a lot of magazines or following food blogs, I try to keep on top of it. I always have a file folder on my computer desktop that I call my “Inspiration Folder” –any time I have an idea I throw it in there. Then, whenever it is time to come up with recipes it is the first place I turn to.
What are a few of your favorite things to cook?
We love to cook Mexican at home. Especially in the summer months. It can cook very quickly. Things like tacos, guacamole or quesadillas. I also love Italian food. Pasta is something I have multiple times a week because it’s affordable and comes together quickly. You can enliven a good tomato sauce any month of the year by adding vegetables that are in season.
What do you feel are some “essentials” of cooking for a family?
Things you can make in big batches like baked ziti. Casseroles are great too. I love doing a reinvented casserole where you can use as many pantry staples as possible, you always have leftovers, and you can satisfy many different palates.
You have recently teamed up with Hungry Jack for their use up the box contest. How do you come up with inspiration when using specific ingredients?
I love the ability to be able to open the cupboard or my refrigerator and say “what am I going to do today.” Its like having your own creative challenge in the kitchen. Pancake mix, or pasta, or even leftover herbs. It’s not about creating a recipe even it’s more about using your kitchen as a creative outlet. If it was a weeknight and I didn’t want to run to the grocery store and I happen to have a box of pancake mix, I think about what I could make, or what a family could enjoy.
Check out Kelsey’s Essentials airing Saturdays at 2.30pm on The Cooking Channel.
March 10, 2011 at 6:50 pm , by Khalil Hymore
Before we discuss the dish I made for this week’s “Dishing It,” I have one question: Do you know Bal? Bal Arneson, that is. She’s is one of the Cooking Channel‘s newest culinary stars…and with good reason. Bal completely demystifies Indian cuisine on her show Spice Goddess with simple recipes that anyone can make. (Even I, a culinary school grad, am not ashamed to admit that Indian recipes sometimes intimidate me.) She’ll even sell you the organic spices to prepare them, with proceeds benefiting women and children in her native India—talk about DO GOOD!
I chose Bal’s recipe from the March 2011 issue of LHJ (Dinner Made Easy) mainly because I adore scallops and was intrigued by the sweet/spicy sauce that accompanies it. Plus, as a food editor, it’s always fun to try other chefs recipes—especially chefs I admire, like Bal.
I did make a few changes to the recipes. For starters, I used mango instead of papaya, because I prefer it and since the recipe calls for ground coriander, I took the opportunity to also test out McCormick‘s new line of roasted spices. If you haven’t tried them yet, they’re great. The roasted coriander I used had a much more powerful flavor than traditional ground coriander. It was perfect in a dish like this, with just a few ingredients. Also, instead of serving my scallops with shaved Parmesan, I served it with a sprinkling of freshly chopped cilantro.
This recipe could not be easier, with minimal prep. You basically start by searing the scallops. The directions say 2 minutes per side which is the perfect amount of time to cook them. They were tender and moist inside and not overcooked at all. Overcooked scallops are often tough and chewy—no one wants that.
After you cook the scallops and remove them from the pan to rest, you toss in your minced garlic and cook for just a moment. Then you add the spices and cook them for another moment. Then you add the tomatoes. (I used an assorted variety of cherry tomatoes, halving the large ones and leaving the smaller ones whole. This was a good move since the halved ones got a touch over cooked.) Cook them for a few minutes before adding the mango (or papaya) to cook a few minutes more. Add the scallops back to the pan to coat in the sauce and serve over rice. That’s it! So, so, so easy, but also very sophisticated. I would totally serve this dish to guests. I’m definitely adding this recipe to my regular repertoire.
As I devoured the dinner (like I said, I adore scallops), I realized that you could prepare this meal with different ingredients and it would be just as delicious. Chunks of cod or salmon could be substituted or, if you don’t like fish, you could always use strips of chicken or pork. Even cubes of tofu if you are vegetarian. Yum!
January 7, 2011 at 12:29 pm , by Catherine LeFebvre
For any woman that’s had a hard time trying to put together a quick snack or a meal from readily-available ingredients and pantry products that aren’t loaded with fat and calories, Lisa Lillien, the woman behind the Hungry Girl phenomenon, is a savior. She was kind enough to chat with us about her popular diet and recipe newsletter and books, her TV show (premiering tomorrow on Cooking Channel), as well her favorite guilt-free foods — she even gave us an exclusive recipe for her fab Pizza-fied Nachos!
Just for our readers that might not already know about your fantastic newsletter and books – can you tell me about Hungry Girl in a nutshell?
Hungry Girl is a free daily email about guilt-free eating. There are food finds and reviews, shockers [about calorie counts and nutrition info], survival guides, and zillions of easy recipes. It’s all about real world eating. The books are recipe books filled with great ideas and crazy-easy and delicious recipes that will make anyone feel like they can cook — even if they think they can’t. And the ingredients used are all things you can easily find in supermarkets.
Tell me a little about your new TV show. What can Hungry Girl fans expect? Will it have any connection with your newest book?
The new show is info-packed and a lot of fun. It truly is the Hungry Girl brand and daily emails coming to life onscreen. Fans can expect tons of recipes, survival tips, shockers and supermarket finds! All of the recipes on the show are similar to the recipes you find in Hungry Girl books — they’re easy, guilt-free and delicious!
Speaking of your newest book, what is the trick to coming up with so many low-calorie recipes?
The trick is to always stay HUNGRY — hungry for new and exciting foods. I love that I never run out of good ideas because I love food and am constantly looking to make over EVERYTHING. I’m inspired by things I see on TV all the time – whether it’s a cooking show or a restaurant commercial.