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.

Top 10 Most Outrageous Recipes + Fool-Your-Friends Cake

by in View All Posts, April 1st, 2009


Fool-Your-Friends Cake

In honor of April Fools Day, I compiled a list of recipes that make everyone on the Web team chuckle (and/or grimace) whenever we run into them online. Which Food Network chef do you think scores highest in the ridiculous recipe contest? Hint: Her names starts with a “P” and should rhyme with “butter.”

Food Network’s Top 10 Most Outrageous Recipes

1. Fried Butter Balls – Paula – When someone first mentioned Paula’s fried butter recipe to me I thought it was a good joke. I couldn’t believe it when I actually ran into the recipe online!

2. Swamp Water – Sandra

3. The Heavyset Cheese Ball – Paula

4. “Fat Darrell” Sandwich – Paula

5. The Lady’s Brunch Burger – Paula – It may not sound like much, but trust me. . . click on the recipe.

6. Seared Frogs Legs Casserole – Robert Irvine

7. Baked Potato Ice Cream – Sandra

8. Get Yo’ Man Chicken – Neelys

9. “Is it Really Better than Sex?” Cake – Paula

10. Trompe L’oeil Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes and Cauliflower, with Poached Tomatoes (“Fool the Eye” savory foods made to look like Chocolate layer cake, vanilla ice cream, and cherries jubilee) – Robert Irvine

Longest recipe title I’ve run across (30 words):
Go Oregonian! Oregon Style Pork Chops with Pinot Noir and Cranberries, Oregon Hash with Wild Mushrooms, Greens, Beets, Hazelnuts and Blue Cheese, Charred Whole Grain Bread with Butter and Chives – Rachael Ray

Most outrageous video clip:
Alton making a Pancake Cake with Avocado Frosting
If you dare, find the recipe here.

Honorable Mention (#11):
Mama Neely’s “Sock It To Me” Cake

Everyone on the Web team is excited about Food Network Challenge: Last Cake Standing – premiering this Sunday, 8 pm/7c, six pastry chefs battle for $50K, the largest prize in Challenge history, etc. – so we decided to wrap all of our best cake recipes up into a super cake-tacular feature package.

Searching our site for cake content had one major side effect – an unquenchable craving for moist crumbs and sweet frosting! I gave in and made the absolute easiest cake on the page, courtesy of Mama Neely. I’m calling it my “Fool-Your-Friends Cake” since it uses a cake mix but tastes completely and deliciously home made.

Spring fever? Check out our great Easter desserts and exciting new exclusive cupcake recipes from the Food Network Kitchens.

- Kirsten, Web Editor

5 Dollar (or Less) Dinners

by in View All Posts, March 18th, 2009

I’m not sure exactly how much money I spend on groceries every week/month/year, but I do know I’d like to spend less. As I worked on our Good Food For Less feature, I focused on obviously “low cost” recipes – vegetarian, tuna casserole, leftover transformations – but I decided to try a few for myself, curious to see how the groceries would add up.

For me, under $10 per person would be a savings compared to eating out (the cost of a meal at my favorite burger and fries spot). But I decided a truly “budget” meal should ring in at no more than $5 per person. I crossed my fingers, made a grocery list and went shopping.

Aida’s Pan-Roasted Chicken with Oranges and Rosemary
Chicken thighs – $4.95
Chicken drumsticks – $2.12
Orange – $0.50 / 2 = $0.25
Rosemary – on my window sill (although I used a lot less than the recipe suggests, because picking sprigs off my pet plant is somewhat painful)

Total spent = $7.32 / 4 servings = $1.83 per serving

Success!! I was amazed!! I made it a meal with a simple arugula salad and roasted spiced-up potatoes the first night. Then I decided to spruce up leftover night by making the simplest risotto recipe I could find (plus, adding some kale that was hiding in the back of my fridge). It was amazing.

I was hooked! I had to try another.


The Neelys’ Sloppy Joes (recipe halved)
1 pound (90 percent lean) ground beef – $4.00
BBQ sauce – $2.49 / 4 = $0.62
Tomato sauce – $0.32
Tomato paste – $0.50 / 4 = $0.13
Green pepper – $1.37 / 2 = $0.69
Red pepper – $1.32 /2 = $0.66
Buns – $3.19 / 6 = $0.53 x 3 = $1.60

Total spent: $8.02 / 2 = $4.01 per serving

I was surprised that the sloppy joes cost more than twice as much as the chicken, but they were still within my $5 budget, and the halved recipe really made two huge servings (1/2 pound of meat per person!). As a low cost side dish, I cut up some sweet potatoes, tossed them in oil, sprinkled with salt and roasted them to make baked sweet potato fries.

Just adding up a few recipe receipts has made me much more cost-conscious at the grocery store. I think I’m going to keep working my way through this feature. Wish me luck with the slow cooker recipes and Rachael’s tuna casserole!

- Kirsten, Web Editor

“Real” Mac and Cheese

by in View All Posts, March 4th, 2009

On a recent snowy evening, the Croque Monsieur Mac and Cheese recipe from our Cheese Guide beckoned. Okay, confession time: My normal mac and cheese comes in a box with a packet of powdered cheese. But this recipe is the real deal – you make a creamy béchamel sauce, fold in two cheeses and the pasta, and then bake until it’s hot and bubbly. It’s deceptively simple and it tastes amazing!

So what the heck is a “Croque Monsieur?” I had to look it up. It’s a French ham and cheese sandwich that’s either toasted or dipped in egg and sautéed in butter. This mac and cheese is a playful twist, using the traditional Gruyere cheese and sliced ham. And, for my favorite part, a bread and egg mixture forms a savory bread-pudding-like crust over the top.

For a more calorie-conscious version of Mac and Cheese, check out Ellie’s made-over recipe, part of our Monthly Meal Makeover features. You can also find tips for slimming down this classic dish from HealthyEats.com. Or you can just do what I did: Serve the ooey-gooey full-fat version with a side salad.

- Kirsten, Web Editor

Not Your Mama’s Meatloaf

by in View All Posts, February 18th, 2009


I met Alex Guarnaschelli from The Cooking Loft at a recent Food Network event, and I was amazed by how warm, personable and funny she is. When she breaks out her deadpan punch-lines, she seems more like a stand-up comic than a chef.
More Alex dish and tasty meatloaf here.

Eating Healthy = (Coffee) Cakewalk

by in View All Posts, February 4th, 2009

Since I work on FoodNetwork.com’s healthy features: Winter Ideas from Eating Well, Easy Meals, Good Deals , 30 Days of Healthy Recipes, and Heart-Healthy Valentine’s Day, I love the idea of eating healthy. As I also like balance in these recipes, I seem to gravitate to Ellie Krieger’s choices. Good for you but still taste great, which is why they always sneak onto my “to-make” list.

Confession — my biggest weakness is sweets. I love to bake — cookies and cupcakes every day if I had time! I’m not afraid to use obscene amounts of cream, butter and sugar.
Sweets lie ahead. Read more.