All Posts By Maria Russo

Maria Russo is an associate editor at Food Network, now living in New York City after being born and raised in the great state of Michigan. She likes her eggs runny, her pasta cheesy and has been known to throw back dozens of oysters at a time.

Tofu-Stuffed Acorn Squash — Meatless Monday

by in Recipes, December 9th, 2013

Tofu-Stuffed Acorn SquashThough squash often plays a starring role on Thanksgiving dinner tables — from soups and salads to mashes and mac and cheese — this family-friendly vegetable is a staple all winter long. Just like butternut and spaghetti squash, acorn squash is endlessly versatile: Feature it as a simple side to round out the meal, or let acorn squash take center stage on your dinner table as the main dish. The key to turning acorn squash — or any vegetable — into an entree is beefing it up a bit with hearty protein, like meat, tofu or eggs, plus complementary ingredients to add extra flavor.

In its recipe for Tofu-Stuffed Acorn Squash (pictured above), Food Network Magazine puts a spin on classic stuffed peppers by using squash as the vessel of choice and tofu instead of ground meat as the filling. Since tofu can be plain on its own, it’s important to cook it with bold ingredients so it adopts those tastes and becomes full-flavored. Here Food Network Magazine sautes tofu with olive oil, garlic and onions, then adds juicy cherry tomatoes and baby spinach to create a fresh mixture. Parmesan cheese and lemon juice add balancing richness and a refreshing flavor to the combination, which is served inside a tender roasted acorn squash with a simple pita-spinach salad on the side.

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Robert Revives the Jersey Shore on Holiday: Impossible 2

by in Shows, December 8th, 2013

Holiday: Impossible 2“It’s our biggest mission ever: two locations, three days, $50,000,” Robert Irvine said of what he was about to take on in Ship Bottom, Long Island Beach, N.J. Just one year ago, that community was devastated — along with so many others along the Eastern Seaboard — when Hurricane Sandy smashed on shore with powerful winds and rain, plus multiple-feet-high storm surges. In the spirit of the season and true to Robert’s selflessness, the Restaurant: Impossible host teamed up with Lexus for Holiday: Impossible 2 to give two Ship Bottom businesses that were nearly decimated by the storm a second chance to thrive. With the help of Lexus’ generous donation of extra time and an increased budget, plus the commitment of his design and construction teams from Restaurant: Impossible, Robert transformed LBI Pancake House and Ship Bottom Volunteer Fire Company, both once waterlogged from the storm and in dire need of updates if they were to have any chance at lasting futures.

While it’s rare for Robert to undertake a project of this magnitude, it’s no surprise that he didn’t let the feat stop him from completing it on time and with the very best results. After just a few days of work, he reopened LBI Pancake House for owners Bill and Carole Waldron as a vibrant, welcoming eatery worthy of the neighborhood, and he introduced a revitalized kitchen and lounge area at Ship Bottom Volunteer Fire Company President Dan English and Fire Chief Wade Bradley, as well as the company’s 30 members. Read on below to hear from Carole and Dan, find out how their locations are doing today and see behind-the-scenes photos.

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Watch the Top 4 Missions with a Cause on Restaurant: Impossible

by in Shows, December 7th, 2013

Each business Robert Irvine visits on Restaurant: Impossible is worthy of his time and resources in the hopes of giving it a second chance at lasting profitability. But every once in a while he’s met with a mission that’s of particular importance — a challenge with especially high stakes and a meaningful cause on the line.

These special missions require not only Robert’s signature focus and commitment to success, but often additional support and an expanded team as well. While this often comes in the form of an increased budget and more time to work, it also includes the contribution of countless volunteers, including celebrity chefs and local neighbors alike. In the past on these special episodes, Robert’s received his list of tasks from none other than the First Lady of the United States, and he’s welcomed back his Dinner: Impossible crew, plus friend Chef Michael Chiarello, to help him complete the tests on time.

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Seafood vs. Italian: Which Restaurant Divided Concept Did You Like Better?

by in Shows, December 5th, 2013

Restaurant DividedIt was father versus son at Michael’s Porthole in Oceanside, N.Y., when Rocco DiSpirito entered the restaurant for the first time. Specializing in seafood, this waterfront eatery was on the brink of closure after a series of devastating accidents and natural tragedies, and while owner Mike Rodonis Sr. was committed to making its fish-focused menu work long-term, his son, Mike Rodonis Jr., who is also the chef at the restaurant, believed that a brand-new Italian concept was needed to jump-start the restaurant’s profitability. Rocco had no choice but to divided the space and pursue both ideas before ultimately determining which offered the greatest opportunity for lasting success.

Working with his Restaurant Divided team, Rocco transformed one half of the interior of Michael’s Porthole into Mike Jr.’s Il Portello, serving Italian-inspired appetizers, and converted the other half into Mike Sr.’s Canal House Grill, a made-over version of the existing restaurant. Rocco helped both guys tweak their menus to be both business-smart and appealing to customers, then the father and son served separate meals to customers and critics alike. After considering both business’ viability and hearing from diners, Rocco announced that the concept of Il Portello is stronger.

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#TBT: Sandra Lee

by in Food Network Chef, December 5th, 2013

Sandra LeeIt’s Thursday, and while that means everyone is just one day away from the weekend, it also means it’s time to throw back — to an earlier period in Food Network’s history. Check back on FN Dish every Thursday to find the latest #tbt of your favorite chefs and get a retro look at their earliest days on TV.

With nearly a decade’s worth of experience on Food Network, Sandra Lee knows the ins and outs of food television and what it takes to be successful on air. She’s managed to find the sweet spot in which she’s not only cooking tried-and-true quality recipes, but doing so in an approachable way that teaches fans and inspires them to get in the kitchen as well.

Sandra has hosted several series on Food Network, and each furthers her commitment to easy, family-friendly recipes that everyday home cooks can tackle. She’s a firm believer in the semi-homemade concept of cooking — the notion that store-bought products can be used alongside fresh ingredients to create home-style dishes — and the idea even inspired one of her first shows, Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee. Every week she’d introduce dishes like Teriyaki Salmon Strips and 5-Bean Chili that combined simple shortcuts, like prepared teriyaki sauce and chili seasoning mix, respectively, with fresh goods, so that viewers could not only put food on the table quickly, but feel good about what they were serving as well.

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Restaurant Revisited: Unfixable Family at Mike La Susa’s Italian Restaurant

by in Shows, December 4th, 2013

Restaurant: ImpossibleIt didn’t take long for Robert Irvine to realize he was facing two missions at Mike La Susa’s Italian Restaurant in Oak Creek, Wis. Not only was he to overhaul the decor and reinvent the menu, but he also had to contend with the family, owners Patrick and Mary, plus their son, Mike. This trio was barely able to communicate with each other when Robert arrived, and it was up to him to attempt to see to the root of their problems while working with his Restaurant: Impossible team to transform the failing eatery into a welcoming, comfortable space. With a budget of only $10,000 and just two days to institute changes, Robert ultimately reopened Mike La Susa’s to a crowd of customers. Read on below for an exclusive update on how the restaurant is doing today.

Mike is enjoying the updated menu, although business has struggled a bit since the transformation, as the changes in the list of offerings have been difficult for longtime customers to accept. He’s still the main cook, and he is planning to eventually add some of the original dishes back to the menu.

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Best 5 Hot Cocoa Recipes

by in Drinks, Recipes, December 4th, 2013

Hot CocoaNo matter how chilly and snowy it may get this winter, there will be no better way to warm up than with a comforting cup of creamy hot cocoa. This seasonal favorite is a timeless childhood treat, but that doesn’t mean grownups can’t indulge as well. Whether you stick with a classic recipe for rich hot chocolate, opt for a generous topping of marshmallows or prefer to add extra flavors, like spices, peppermint or liqueurs, making this sweet treat is simple and, perhaps best of all, fast. Check out Food Network’s top-five recipes for hot cocoa below from some of your favorite chefs, like Alton, Giada and Sandra, to find their traditional and classic versions of this tried-and-true drink.

5. Raspberry Hot Chocolate — For a taste of adults-only decadence, add a splash of raspberry liqueur to the piping-hot chocolate cream just before serving, and finish with candied ginger for a sweet, spicy contrast.

4. White Hot Chocolate with Marshmallow Stirrers — Instead of simply topping her warm white chocolate-almond milk mixture with a few mini marshmallows, Giada dunks large marshmallows in chocolate, attaches them to the ends of lollipop sticks and gently stirs them into her drink.

Get the top-three recipes

Watch the Top 5 Tough Love Moments on Restaurant: Impossible

by in Shows, December 3rd, 2013

Much of the work Robert Irvine does on Restaurant: Impossible focuses on showing business owners and their employees where they’ve made mistakes in the past and how they can best fix them going forward. To teach those lessons, however, so that the staff will learn once and for all how to avoid similar struggles in the future, Robert is forced to be brutally honest in his assessment of the restaurant’s design, its food and the management skills of its leaders. It’s ultimately for the betterment of the business that Robert shares his tough love in the form of constructive criticism and unhindered remarks about what he’s seeing and tasting at the restaurant.

In the more than six seasons Restaurant: Impossible has aired, Robert’s gone to great lengths in words and actions to prove his point to businesses owners and their staff, holding no bars in his assessment of the good, bad and just plain awful scenes he finds in kitchens and dining rooms. Click the play button on the video above to watch the top-five tough love moments, then tune in to an all-new episode Wednesday at 10pm/9c to watch Robert tackle his latest restaurant mission.

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Sesame and Peanut Noodles — Meatless Monday

by in Recipes, December 2nd, 2013

Sesame and Peanut NoodlesNow four days post-Thanksgiving, it’s likely that the last leftovers from Turkey Day are gone from your refrigerator and you’ve nearly had your fill of all things mashed, roasted, creamed and gravied. But whether lingering relatives are still staying over or you’re back to cooking for just your immediate family, the question of tonight’s dinner remains, and for this Meatless Monday, something simple and speedy is in order.

Instead of reaching for the nearest takeout menu, try Melissa d’Arabian’s Sesame and Peanut Noodles (pictured above), a top-rated dish that can be on the table in only 20 quick minutes. The secret to this recipe is the sweet and salty balance of flavors in the peanut dressing, featuring a combination of peanut butter, honey and soy sauce, plus a few drops of Sriracha for subtle heat (if you’re cooking for little ones, just scale back on the amount to reduce the level of spiciness). What results is a thick, creamy sauce that coats the pasta and pairs well with the crunchiness of fresh peppers and cabbage. For added texture, finish the dish with chopped peanuts and sesame seeds before serving.

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Introducing: Dawn Wells from the Chopped Celebrity Holiday Bash

by in Shows, November 30th, 2013

Dawn WellsFor one night only, the Chopped Kitchen will turn into a celebrity playground as four television stars take their places at the stove and cook against the clock in three rounds of Chopped competition. Teri Hatcher, Anthony Anderson, Antonio Sabato Jr. and Dawn Wells will face off in the first-ever Celebrity Holiday Bash on Sunday, Dec. 1 at 10pm/9c, and in the spirit of the season, they’ll find holiday-themed ingredients in each of their baskets. While these all-stars may be after personal culinary vindication and lasting bragging rights in the kitchen, they’re also competing for charity, and the winner will ultimately be able to donate $10,000 to the organization of his or her choice.

To prepare for this all-star extravaganza, FN Dish is introducing you to each of the celebrities. Today we’re shining the spotlight on Dawn Wells, a former Miss Nevada who went on to play Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island. Read on below to hear from Dawn, learn about her experience in the kitchen, and find out her favorite food city to visit, late-night snack and more. Then tune in on Sunday at 10pm/9c to watch Dawn, Anthony, Antonio and Teri compete on the Celebrity Holiday Bash.

What’s your background in cooking?
Dawn Wells: I’m just a home cooker. I’m not a fancy cooker. I’m not a baker. My mother is half German, half Italian. My mother could cook anything at any time, so I grew up with it. Not particularly recipes. My mother and I did a cookbook together years ago. There’s three or four recipes that I hold onto.

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