By Sidney Burngasser
About 700 food enthusiasts leapt from their seats and roared, “I love food!” Electric energy and the smell of roasting garlic permeated the air, Oct. 29, as the Taste of Home Cooking School commenced.
The Carl Perkins Civic Center and Thomas Media played host to the 4th annual event offered by “Taste of Home” magazine, the largest monthly cooking publication in the country.
“Are you ready to see them in action?” asked Julie Cooke, event coordinator and local radio personality. “Let’s give a big West Tennessee welcome to Michelle ‘Red’ Roberts.”
Red, a “Taste of Home” culinary specialist and self-proclaimed Easy-Bake extraordinaire, kicked off the show by preparing banana-pecan French toast. An overhead camera allowed the audience to feel as if they were watching the show from inside a home kitchen.
“So many of us have such busy lives, it’s nice just to have a day when you can think about nesting a bit,” Cooke said. “This show is for anyone who’s already a great cook and for those of us who could still use a lot more practice.”
Throughout the evening, Red concocted simple and healthy dishes including gingered carrot soup, bacon-cheddar-chive scones and cookie-dough truffles. The key, she said, is to utilize time-saving ingredients like store-bought chicken broth or pre-made piecrusts. She also recommends recipes using frozen vegetable mixes, rather than taking the time to cut and combine fresh produce.
“People say it’s not homemade,” Red said. “Yes, it is. I made it in my house.”
Informational videos were shown between dishes, highlighting techniques and tips for fall recipes and holiday gifting. “Hors d’oeuvres on-the-fly” include “jazzed-up” olives, breadsticks with prosciutto and “muddy-buddy’s,” chocolate-dipped cookie dough treats.
“I think anyone who has a real love of entertaining in the home is always looking for cooking tips, recipes and anything friends and family will enjoy,” Cooke said.
Additionally, door prizes provided by various local and national sponsors were awarded. Winners were required to proclaim their love for food by standing and shouting those magic words, “I love food!” Pancake mix, knives and pound cake were among the rewards.
“And remember,” Red said, “keep it simple, keep it special.”
Recipe courtesy Taste of Home (http://www.tasteofhome.com) magazine. Visit TasteofHome.com for more casseroles (http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/Course/Dinner-Recipes/Casseroles?keycode=ZPR).
Broccoli Mac and Cheese Bake
3 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
4 cups fresh broccoli florets
1/2 cup butter, cubed
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cans (12 ounces each) evaporated milk
2-1/2 cups (10 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1/2 cup crushed cornbread-flavored crackers (about 6 crackers)
Cook macaroni according to package directions, adding broccoli during the last 3-4 minutes; drain.
In a large saucepan, melt butter. Stir in the flour, garlic powder, onion powder, pepper and salt until smooth; gradually stir in evaporated milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat; stir in 2 cups cheese.
Place half of the macaroni and broccoli in a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish. Top with half of the cheese sauce. Repeat layers. Sprinkle with cracker crumbs and remaining cheese.
Bake, uncovered, at 375° for 20-25 minutes or until bubbly. Yield: 12 servings.
Nutrition Facts: 3/4 cup equals 467 calories, 31 g fat (21 g saturated fat), 106 mg cholesterol, 557 mg sodium, 27 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 21 g protein.