Posts Tagged ‘Food Network’

"Spar for the Spurtle"
What’s a spurtle, you ask? It’s a 15th-century cooking implement, of course, a “rod-like instrument that is traditionally used to stir porridge and prevent it from becoming lumpy.” Porridge, in this case, meaning oatmeal.

All clear? No? Keep reading, I have a story to tell.

Once upon a time, there was a delightful man named Bob who opened a mill up in Oregon. This mill produces a ton of delicious products, one of them being steel-cut oats. A couple of years ago, Bob sent one of his employees to enter the Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championship in Scotland…and he won!

Now Bob and Co. have opened up the contest to amateurs, civilians, home cooks, people, in short, like us. Last year a woman named Merry Graham (that’s “Merry with an e,” not to be confused with my friend “Mary with an a” Graham) won the U.S. contest with her recipe for Black Bean Porridge Patties with Pico de Gallo.

Click the pic for the recipe.

You know what’s coming, right? I am SO entering this contest. So is my friend and office cooking cohort, Kerri…but that still leaves one slot in the U.S. finals for you. (Kerri and I are obviously destined to take two out of three spots, but you’re welcome to fight it out for the other one. We’d love to meet you and–with all the love in the world–kick your butt in the Oregon cook-off).

Last year’s finalists with Bob (in the middle). Will it be you (with Kerri & me) this year?

So here’s the scoop: To enter, you need to create a unique recipe that makes use of Bob’s Red Mill’s Steel Cut Oats. Then submit a video of you making your dish—just pretend you’re one of The Next Food Network Star finalists. Better get to cooking and filming, though; the deadline to enter is July 20.

From the entries, three finalists will be flown to Portland, Ore. to compete in a live cook-off in early August. The winner of the cook-off will receive an all-expenses-paid trip for two to Scotland, including $2,500 in cash, to help represent team Bob’s Red Mill in the 19th Annual Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championship this October.

So….you in? Before you say “aye” here’s a fun little twist from the official rules: The recipe should demonstrate a creative use of the oats – or, as the Scots say, a “blending and harmony of the porridge with the other ingredients.” Dishes can be sweet or savory – they just need to be cooked on the stovetop using only two burners and able to be created from start to finish within 30 minutes. Oats may be soaked or toasted prior to the start of the 30 minutes, but they cannot be cooked in any way.

The degree of difficulty just ramped up, didn’t it? Never mind, it just requires a little extra creativity. Here’s a link to the official rules and whatnot. If you enter (and I hope you do) let me know where to find your video and I’ll post a link to it. Once Kerri and I have our videos up I’ll post links to them, too.

Golden Spurtle

The Golden Spurtle! (You can come over and admire it after I win.)

Good luck, lads and lasses! It’s time for “a brawl of epic proportions.” Game on!

P.S. This isn’t a sponsored post or anything, I just wanted to give you fair warning about my upcoming trips to Portland and Scotland. Not that I’m overly confident or anything (perish the thought!) but I do feel pretty good about my recipe.

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James Beard Foundation sign
A little research–and an exchange of voicemails with a very nice woman at the James Beard Foundation–resulted in a bit of extremely useful information. So after a quick look around our new digs, we headed back down to Chelsea Market to visit the JBF LTD pop up. It was, to quote the Foundation, “the most exciting pop-up food pavilion and restaurant New York has seen.” It existed for 27 days. We were there on day…


They crossed out the table numbers at the end of each day.

A food pavilion is kind of like a mini-fair for foodies. There was a “steak of the day”
Steak of the day

Filet mignon? Why yes, thank you very much.

brownies from the Food Network kitchen . . . Food Network booth some lovely crepes . . . an actual restaurant . . . pop up restaurant where we got delicious flavored tea.
Assorted iced teas

I had the white peach. Delightfully refreshing!

Vikki got on TV with James Beard himself . . .
Vikki & James on TV

Who knew Vikki was an early TV star?

and Rosemary found the rear end of a cow.
Rosemary with cow

Rosemary--pointing out her favorite cut?

But, lovely as it was, that was just a warm up for the main event. We were there to see this: “Experts of the Food Network Kitchens—Katherine Alford, vice president of the test kitchens at Food Network and Cooking Channel, and Food Network executive chef Rob Bleifer will be on hand to talk about and sample their favorite Food Network dishes for everyone to see, smell, and taste.” And see them we did. Interview in progress
They even brought snacks: Sample girl Snack Note: As of this writing I’m hunkered in the closet during a tornado warning so I can’t remember what it was…but it was yummy. The green sauce is pea-based.

Naturally, our little group snagged prime seats front and center, which was a good thing for everyone. No, really. We were a fantastic audience: engaged, making eye contact, nodding & laughing at the appropriate times. Which could explain why when the interviewer opened the floor for questions he said, “Does anybody have any questions?” and immediately stuck the microphone in my face.

Yes, of course I had a question ready. Of the three questions asked, our group was responsible for two. (Told you we were a good audience.) After it was over we basked in a little reflected glory and noticed that Chef Rob was still hanging around. So we went over to chat with him and realized this was a golden opportunity. “You know that Food Network logo on the wall that we see on TV,” I said, with all the charm I could muster. “Is that somewhere we could get to to take a picture?”

Chef Rob pondered that a moment. “Well . . . no. But . . . I can sneak you up there.”

O. M. G.

“They’re working in the kitchen so I can’t take you in there, but I can get you to the logo.”

I love that man. We oh-so-casually followed him out the door and through the halls of Chelsea Market down an unobtrusive hall to an unmarked elevator. A seriously cool metallic unmarked elevator, btw, as befitting one leading to the foodie holy of holies. Then the doors opened and…

Chef Rob Bleifer, me, Vikki, inside the foodie holy of holies

Rosemary took the picture; she and Beverly were also there!

Now THAT’S what I call a successful trip to New York!

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We had the morning free to make a pilgrimage, so after only a few false starts on the subway we found ourselves here:

Chelsea Market, NYC

Chelsea Market...or as we like to call it, "Foodie Mecca"

The Food Network lives here. So do several other media outlets and a lot of good food, but that’s beside the point. It’s a rather fabulous building that used to be the headquarters of the National Biscuit Company. You may know them as Nabisco. NAtional BIscuit COmpany, get it?

Tile mosaic

Apparently this used to be the front entrance, before they added vowels.

Oreos were born here. That alone would make it a place of interest, but the inside is packed with lovely little places to eat and odd steel pieces, a fountain, etc. It reminds me of the old Olla Padrida shopping center of my youth. After wandering from one end to the other in a vain search for the Food Network logo, we stopped at Amy’s Bread for breakfast.

Bread and tea

A perfectly proper breakfast

Not only was it delicious–that’s chocolate in one of those twists–we had a view of the bakers at work while we ate.

man making bread

Not Amy. At least, I don't think so.

We ate, gawked, and shopped. I bought salt & pepper shakers. Finally. Now the snowman & Christmas tree can stop appearing on the table at summer dinner parties. We rode up in a random elevator hoping to find the Food Network, but alas, it was just TV station NY1. (We mumbled excuses and hastily hit the down button.)

We also wondered at a number of posters advertising something called a “pop-up” from the James Beard Foundation. They mentioned “steak of the day” and other delights, but we couldn’t find it. So, eventually tiring of our fruitless search, we set off to visit another foodie fantasy, Eataly. (More about that tomorrow.) Along the way we saw this, which certainly does not look my local purveyor of construction supplies:

Home Depot

Toto, we're not in Texas anymore.

It would not be our last trip to Chelsea Market. Oh no. There were adventures yet to be had there. But that’s a story for another day. Until then…


They're just so beautifully blue

These have nothing to do with anything, but aren’t they gorgeous? If only I could get mine that color…

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I love finding fun places to eat, so you can imagine my delight when I found out this place was just a short walk from my hotel in St. Paul, MN.
Mickey's Diner, St. Paul, MN

It’s a National Landmark. No, really. And inside it’s just as it should be, all chrome and vinyl with scarcely room to scoot by the other people on their stools at the counter. I’d forgotten until I read it on the menu, but I have seen this place on the Food Network (multiple shows). I was prepared to be charmed and Mickey’s did not disappoint.

For less than $10 I got breakfast and a show. This is Dave, who cooked my order. He was a constant blur of motion, whirling around like a dervish while managing to create culinary masterpieces on a flattop grill smaller than my stovetop, all the while keeping up a steady stream of conversation with multiple people.

Dave at the grill of Mickey's Diner

That's my breakfast he's cooking.

It was difficult to decide on my order. The omelets were puffy things of beauty; the pancakes looked light as a feather. But in the end I decided to go with a One-Eyed Jack. It was a grilled ham, jack cheese, and egg sandwich served with hash browns. And it was delicious.

One-eyed jack from Mickey's Diner

Hello. This is One-Eyed Jack.

Should you find yourself in St. Paul, I highly recommend Mickey’s Diner. The atmosphere, witty repartee, and food are all excellent. Plus it’s open 24 hours so any time you get the urge for some good American food you can find it there. If I’m ever back in town you can be sure I’ll stop in.

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As the taping of the 10th anniversary show of Good Eats is tonight in Atlanta—and I am currently in my home in Texas—I am reluctantly forced to concede that I did not win the contest. I’m startled at the uncharacteristic lack of good taste on the part of the Food Network, but I can only assume the judge in question had his/her reasons. (However misguided they undoubtedly were.)

I’m not bitter. No really, I’m not. Although it would have been amazing to go meet Alton Brown and be part of this special occasion, life will go on. Having the time at home allowed me to do battle with the trumpet vine on my back fence (and the myriad buzzing bees that live in it), finally go grocery shopping, and spend 4 hours decorating a cake for a Sunday School birthday party tomorrow. I also prepared a most beautiful and delicious lemon rosemary roasted chicken dinner. I know—my social life is the stuff legends are made of. It’s been a good—if quiet—day. Some days are like that. And, to quote that noted philosopher, Scarlett O’Hara, “Tomorrow is another day.”

My fan club

My fan club

For now, I have my own little sock puppet fan club to cheer me on as I hose down the kitchen. (How does buttercream frosting manage to cover every surface?) I don’t think I’ll tell them we didn’t win. When sock puppets go bad . . . it’s not good.

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Now I'm worried...

Now I'm worried...

What do sock puppets have to do with cooking, you ask? Since you had to ask, I gather you are not an aficionado of Alton Brown’s Food Network Show, Good Eats. (Those of you who recognized my little sock friends as yeast right off can skip the next paragraph.)

Good Eats is not your average cooking show. Yes, the host (the aforementioned Alton Brown) does cook. He also explains the science of cooking in a fun and creative way, utilizing such visual aids as a giant tongue, a male crew member dressed as a little Swiss girl (pigtails and all—it’s pretty scary), and the occasional sock puppet. In a show about using yeast, Alton explained that activated yeast molecules produce gas. To highlight this, he was surrounded by little sock friends burping their knitted heads off. Maybe you just had to be there…but every time I make bread or any baked good that calls for yeast, I think of those burping sock puppets. (Here, you can see it for yourself. But promise to come back, OK?)

It’s true I am a huge fan of Alton’s but I didn’t spend the better part of a week—off and on—designing and creating sock puppets just for fun. It’s part of my cunning plan to win a Food Network contest and attend the 10th Anniversary taping of Good Eats, plus attend the VIP after party and actually be in the presence of the great man himself. They’re choosing 6 winners, so I guess it won’t hurt to tell you to look here for contest rules and regs. The deadline is August 7, so you’d better hurry.

I would mention how much I want to win this contest, but you’d get bored reading all that “really, really, really, really…” so just think back to what it was like being a 17-year-old waiting for your crush to ask you to prom and you’ll get a feel for my emotional state. Not that I actually did that; my crush at 17 was a grown-up musician who didn’t live in my town and wasn’t going to my prom regardless…but I digress.

Back to the contest: I realize my odds of winning are slim, despite the charms of my googley-eyed supporting cast. There was a time I wouldn’t even have entered, assuming that it wasn’t worth the trouble, that the disappointment would be too great, that I was doomed to fail . . . but now I think “So what?” So what if I don’t get a trip to Atlanta, so what if I don’t get to meet my food “idol”, so what if I just look silly on the Food Network Web site for all the world to see? Sometimes you just have to go for it. It cost me about $6 and several hours’ work. It might get me nothing; it might get me the trip of a lifetime. I’ll let you know.

If nothing else, I now have a family of sock puppets to do something with. I’m thinking costumes for Halloween, caroler outfits for Christmas, bunny ears for Easter . . . this may turn into a whole new trend in seasonal decorating!

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Last Saturday, I found myself in my formal apron (and matching hair toy, of course) facing some 25 people across a kitchen counter. They were there to learn how to make savory dishes with blueberries. I was there to (gulp) teach.

Note the little bowls of ingredients, just like on TV

Note the little bowls of ingredients, just like on TV

Here’s the backstory: my favorite blueberry farm puts out a newsletter year-round. Ann (owner of said farm) mentioned in one newsletter that she was starting classes of various kinds and did anyone have any ideas? Hmm, I thought, there’s a limit to the number of blueberry muffins, cobblers, and pies I need to eat, but I still have blueberries in my freezer. I wonder . . . So I emailed Ann my idea, she asked if I wanted to help teach, and the next thing I knew we were advertising “Beyond the Blueberry Muffin: Savory Dishes with Blueberries.”

Now, prior to this I had never taught a cooking class, or much of anything else. Years ago I trained a bunch of secretaries on an extremely boring computer program, but that’s about the extent of my teaching experience. But what the heck? All those hours watching the Food Network ought to pay off somehow, right? So I requested recipes from a co-worker’s daughter—a recent Le Cordon Bleu grad—dug through my files, and formulated a plan.

Ann Bailey, owner of Bailey's Berry Patch, with roasted bananas

Ann Bailey, owner of Bailey's Berry Patch, with roasted bananas

It all went remarkably well. Ann and I went back and forth demonstrating everything from salads and salsas to BBQ sauces and burgers. (Yes, hamburgers. With blueberries. They’re to die for; recipe follows.) We had a sous chef and everything; Elaura kept the dishes clean and supplies coming, bless her heart. Ann’s husband Pearce was stationed outside at the grill, taking care of the chicken, pork loin, and those infamous burgers. The crowd actually listened when I talked—I was a little concerned about that, going in—and seemed to enjoy the stories, tips and trivia I added to my portion of the show. We cooked for 3 or so hours, then set out the food and chowed down. (I’d show you a picture of the food, but I forgot to take one.) Our audience went home happy with books of recipes, free cutting boards, and full tummies. I went home and took a long nap.
Our helper, Elaura, washing one of the freebie cutting boards.

Our helper, Elaura, washing one of the freebie cutting boards.

It was all grand fun. I don’t think I’m quite FN material (I’ve seen myself on camera, it’s a little scary) but I did enjoy showing off my culinary “expertise” and spending time with a great group of people. So if anybody wants a cooking class teacher, my formal apron is clean again, and maybe…

Meanwhile, here’s the Blueberry Burger Recipe. Don’t be scared, once it’s cooked you’ll never know they’re in there.

Blueberry Beef Burgers

2 slices whole-wheat bread, torn into pieces
1/3 cup fresh (or frozen and thawed) blueberries
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
12 ounces lean ground beef

Place bread in a food processor and pulse into fine crumbs. Transfer to large bowl. (No need to wash food processor’s workbowl.)

Remaining ingredients EXCEPT ground beef to food processor; process until pureed. Scrape into bowl with breadcrumbs. Add ground beef and mix well. (I like to put on plastic gloves and use the tools God gave me for mixing—it’s much easier than using a potato masher or spoon. The gloves keep the meat mixture out from under your fingernails.) Form into ½ inch thick patties.

Preheat broiler or grill to medium-high. Oil broiler pan or grill (prior to heating is best) to prevent sticking. Cook patties until they reach your preferred level of doneness; 4-5 minute per side should get you to medium-well territory. You can also cook patties on the stove, preferably in an iron skillet. Do not mash them with your spatula; they’re extremely juicy and will make a mess.

Serve immediately, with or without buns and toppings. If using buns, I recommend toasting them because, as mentioned before, these are extremely juicy. Make 4 good-sized burgers.

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