All Posts By Kirsten Vala

Kirsten is a Senior Online Editor for FoodNetwork.com. She’s a passionate baker and loves donuts, chocolate and everything sweet.

Tyler’s Ultimate Tomato Salads

by in View All Posts, August 25th, 2010
Tomato Salad Tyler’s Heirloom Tomato Chow-Chow

Summer FestWe’re teaming up with other food and garden bloggers to host Summer Fest 2010, a season-long garden party. Each week we’ll feature favorite garden-to-table recipes and tips to help you enjoy the bounty, whether you’re harvesting your own goodies or buying them fresh from the market. To join in, check out awaytogarden.com.

Tyler Florence has a knack for creating the “ultimate” stand-by dishes. With tomatoes at their peak, I decided to tap his culinary know-how for farm-stand inspiration.

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Paula’s Perfect Peach Cobbler

by in View All Posts, August 18th, 2010
Peach Cobbler Paula Deen’s Perfect Peach Cobbler

Summer FestWe’re teaming up with other food and garden bloggers to host Summer Fest 2010, a season-long garden party. Each week we’ll feature favorite garden-to-table recipes and tips to help you enjoy the bounty, whether you’re harvesting your own goodies or buying them fresh from the market. To join in, check out awaytogarden.com.

With just five ingredients (granted, one is a whole stick of butter!), Georgia-native Paula Deen makes a perfect Peach Cobbler, one of the top recipes on FoodNetwork.com.

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The “Other” Summer Greens

by in View All Posts, August 11th, 2010
Swiss Chard Lasagna Irresistible Swiss Chard Lasagna from Food Network Magazine

Summer FestWe’re teaming up with other food and garden bloggers to host Summer Fest 2010, a season-long garden party. Each week we’ll feature favorite garden-to-table recipes and tips to help you enjoy the bounty, whether you’re harvesting your own goodies or buying them fresh from the market. To join in, check out awaytogarden.com.

I sometimes forget about summer greens until I run into a beautiful, compelling pile of chard or mustard greens at the farmers’ market. For my next impromptu purchase, I’ve tapped into the expertise of Alton, Giada and the Food Network Kitchens. I might even head out to buy greens on purpose now, with these three winning recipes (plus Alton’s cool washing method!) at my fingertips.

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Paula’s Best Zucchini Bread, Plus 5 Riffs

by in View All Posts, July 28th, 2010
Zucchini Bread
Paula's Best Zucchini Bread Recipe

Summer Fest

We’re teaming up with other food and garden bloggers to host Summer Fest 2010, a season-long garden party. Each week we’ll feature favorite garden-to-table recipes and tips to help you enjoy the bounty, whether you’re harvesting your own goodies or buying them fresh from the market. To join in, check out awaytogarden.com.

With zucchini season at its peak, there’s no better way to celebrate than with batches and batches of zucchini bread. And if you happen to have a humongous specimen lurking in your garden, this is the dish for you – the seeds of larger zucchini are tough and dry, but you won’t even notice when it’s grated into bread. For a classic, down-home zucchini bread recipe, we turned to Paula, of course.
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Summer’s Best BBQ Pork

by in View All Posts, July 20th, 2010
Roasted pig from Smokin' Joe's True-Blue Texas Barbecue
Roasted pig from Smokin' Joe's True-Blue Texas Barbecue

Sure, summer is all about fantastic in-season veggies, but sometimes you need to take an afternoon to sit back, relax and smell the hickory smoke. Low-and-slow BBQ and grilled meats are definite highlights of my summer.

My heart skipped a beat when, browsing the booths at New York’s Meatopia event, I caught sight of this beautiful, whole roasted pig, courtesy of Smokin’ Joe’s True-Blue Texas Barbecue.

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Easter Eggs and Good Deals with Melissa

by in View All Posts, April 1st, 2010

Melissa d'Arabian

Who doesn’t appreciate quick and easy budget-friendly dinner ideas? Food Network star Melissa d’Arabian’s show, Ten Dollar Dinners (Sundays at 12:30pm/11:30c), is all about making the daily dinner struggle a little easier without breaking the bank. We were excited to chat with Melissa about Easter, spring produce and her fresh new season of Ten Dollar Dinners, filming next week.

FN Dish: What are some of your favorite ways to keep costs down when you’re entertaining for a special occasion or holiday like Easter?
Melissa: One of the great things about Easter is you’ve got inexpensive proteins that are front and center. Ham and pork roast are two very inexpensive proteins that feed a lot of people, and they’re festive and feel decadent without being expensive. Another Easter-time protein is the egg. An egg runs anywhere between 12 and 17 cents, so even at two eggs a person you’re only talking 25 to 30 cents. It doesn’t get much cheaper than that, and an egg is actually really versatile. We tend to think of eggs only as breakfast, but I think that eggs as protein for lunches and dinners are often overlooked, so there are lots of opportunities with the egg that will save a lot of money.

In fact, on FoodNetwork.com I have some recipes to use up hard-boiled eggs from the Easter egg hunt, because there’s only so much egg salad you can eat. But don’t waste those eggs. They’re great protein, not a lot of money and there are some creative ways to use them.

See Melissa’s tips for making perfect hard-boiled eggs, plus recipes for Asparagus with Tangy-Smoky Dressing and her Egg and Garlic Cheese Baguette. Also, see how she makes the cutest Easter cupcakes.

P.S. In case you missed it, watch Melissa whip up more Easter brunch recipes on the TODAY Show.

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Super Bowl Party Picks: For Colts Fans

by in View All Posts, February 4th, 2010

Alton's Buffalo Wings
As a loyal Midwesterner, I’ll be rooting for Indiana this Super Bowl Sunday. Go Colts! My menu picks? Hearty, Midwestern comfort food favorites, including Indiana pork cutlets, beef and, yes, corn. This Indiana-inspired menu is hard to beat.

Colts Potato SkinsIndiana’s Fried Pork Potato Skins: Pork cutlets are an Indiana favorite. Topped with a little mayo, mustard and hot sauce, they’ll make amazing game-day noshes.

Buffalo Wings: If you (like me) make hot wings once a year, this is the easiest, most straight-forward recipe you can find. It’s a sure crowd-pleaser!

Slow-Cooker Chili: Warm up with steaming bowls of beefy chili. You can throw all the ingredients into the slow cooker mid-morning and forget about them until game time.

Sweet-and-Spicy Kettle Corn: A nod to never-ending fields of corn, this popcorn gets dressed up for the big game with sugar and spice, an irresistible flavor combo.
Chocolate Cupcakes
Chocolate Malt Cupcakes: A classic, down-home dessert, you really can’t go wrong with chocolate cupcakes. Set a plate out and watch them disappear.

Saints Fans: Check out our New Orleans-inspired menu from earlier this week.

For more menu ideas, from Quick and Easy to Budget Friendly, browse all of our Super Bowl menus.

- Kirsten, Web Editor

Worst Cooks in America. . . Really.

by in View All Posts, January 9th, 2010

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If you’re a reality show addict like I am, you’re sure to love Food Network’s newest, high-drama competition show, Worst Cooks in America (Sundays at 10pm/9c). Chefs Anne Burrell and Beau MacMillan lead two teams of aspiring cooks through culinary boot camp and into competition. For the best of the worst: a grand prize of $25,000. I caught up with Anne and Beau recently to chat about what Beau calls “one of the most drama-filled, suspense-filled, exciting shows in the history of Food Network.”

Kirsten: What advice do you have for people who think they’re bad cooks?

Anne: Get a cookbook, get a good one and then use it. Don’t just wing it because if you’re not a good cook and you know you’re not a good cook, writing recipes – you’re not going to be good at it. Use it, love it, learn it.

Beau: You’ve gotta have desire. People fail once and all of a sudden they’re a bad cook. We’ve been in this business our whole lives, and you’re a student every day you walk into the kitchen. You can be humbled very quickly, so don’t give up on yourself. It’s not going to happen overnight.

Kirsten: What three ingredients would you give a new cook?

Anne: I’d give them my holy trinity, which is salt, olive oil and bacon. Those are the flavor basics to any good dish.

Beau: Swine is devine; it’s where it’s at. Anne says bacon makes everything better, and I totally agree.

Anne: That’s where I live, in bacon land.

Kirsten: Tell me a little bit about the competition between the two of you in this show.

Anne: I was unprepared for the reality of reality. So, when contestants started to cry or get so nervous, I was unprepared for that. But I was also unprepared for my own feelings of super competitiveness between me and Beau. It was really real and serious, and there was no way I was letting things slide.

Beau: You see these competitors come in and they have to compete, but the same type of [competitive] feelings build between us as well. As a chef you’re a control freak and you’re in control at all times, but in this situation you have to rely on your team. It was hard on Anne and me because you can only instruct, you cannot help. It became very stressful for us.

Anne: There was definitely very real competition and there were times when we had some smack talking. People might have thought that was staged, but no, that was very real. There was some smack going on and I think the contestants definitely noticed.

Kirsten: Why do you think this show is a must-watch? What’s the best part about the show?

Anne: There’s a crazy cast of characters, between the chef-testants and the chef chefs, but also, it really shows the inner strength that people have and the will and want to succeed. You really want to root for the underdog.

Beau: Yeah, I remember day one, Anne and I were sitting there critiquing the food and we though “Wow, Food Network did an awesome job of picking these people, but it’s got to get better than this,” but it just kind of crashed. But it’s funny, whenever I talk about the show, the biggest reaction I get from people is “I should be on that show. I should be a worst cook.” And I’m like, I didn’t know there were so many of you guys out there? I think it can relate to a lot of people.

Anne: It’s interesting because so many people know that they’re bad and they put themselves in a situation where they know they can learn. People really want to learn.

For me, the train-wreck qualities of this show make it a can’t miss. The first episode premiered last weekend, but you can see it again Sunday at 6pm/5c. New episodes air on Sundays, 10pm/9c. Check out our Worst Cooks in America show page for recipes, sneak peeks, contestant bios and more about Anne and Beau.

- Kirsten, Web Editor

Inside Scoop: Bargains for the Highest Bidder

by in View All Posts, November 13th, 2009

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Studio A at the Chelsea Market offices regularly changes faces for the filming of Iron Chef America, the Next Food Network Star Finale and a ton of in-the-kitchen shows, from Guy’s Big Bite to Secrets of a Restaurant Chef. But this week, for one afternoon, Studio A was transformed into a kitchen wonderland, a dream world for cooking-enthusiast bargain shoppers. It was a charity auction for Share Our Strength, and it was beautiful!

Studio A as AuctionItems on sale were leftover from shows, equipment from the kitchens and Kohl’s products donated by the culinary department. At high noon, Food Networkers (including Sunny Anderson!) swarmed into the studio and started grabbing (mostly politely) and bidding – small items priced as marked and larger items auctioned off to the highest bidders.
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A Trip Home for Pumpkin Patch Treats

by in View All Posts, October 29th, 2009

Caramel Apple
A trip home to my parents’ farm, Vala’s Pumpkin Patch in Nebraska, was all about family, friends and great food. I spent most of my weekend mingling, catching up with my pumpkin patch family (including 500+ part-time, seasonal employees) and trying to eat everything in sight.

Vala's Cinnamon RollsFarms aren’t usually known for smelling good, but when you walk into Vala’s you’re greeted by the aroma of coffee and freshly baked cinnamon rolls. (When the craving hits, try Cinnamon Rolls from Food Network Magazine for a similar homemade version.)
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