Tag Archives: easy meals

The Oprah Dream: What happened?

As most of you know, I auditioned for Oprah’s contest to have my “OWN” show on her new network, OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network). It happened on a Friday afternoon in May, when Oprah talked through the TV to ME and said, “Do you think you have what it takes to have your own show? Do people tell you should be on TV?” “Yes, and yes, totally” I said back to her! So, my hubby and I scrambled and filmed a short audition before time slipped away.

Quick segue: When we produced, Cooking for the Clueless, our DVD to help people who are super frustrated in the kitchen, our intention was to sell it in the big stores – you know, Crate & Barrel and Bed Bath & Beyond for all the newlywed shoppers that realize they can’t cook after “I do” and Target for all the 30-something smart shoppers in our “target audience.” What really happened was that C&B and BBB & Tar-jay said, “great concept, but you’re a nobody kid – we can’t carry your DVD!” Ok, so they didn’t use those exact words, but they said if I had a show, it’d be a different story. Thank God for Amazon. They love us. Anyway – just a little reality background for our die-hard fans.

The more I promoted the DVD, the more TV (morning shows) I did and got more comfortable in front of the camera and people would say, “What a great concept for a show!” I always felt it was but started to believe that other people agreed. Oh and the best confidence booster happened at the Tasty Awards – do you remember when we won the Tasty Award for best food DVD? (see acceptance speech here :0). After the show, a big-time producer from TLC (produces Cake Boss) came up to me and said, “call me, I like your energy.” That was awesome – but so far nada. And then there came Oprah, the grande mama of all hopes for almost every woman in America. My audition got 18,364 votes! Out of 465 online cooking entries, I finished in the top 25 or 30, I think. Not bad huh?

Finish the Oprah Story already…

Ok, so the voting closed about 10 days ago and in a delusional state, I thought I may have a chance for a call back, then I read that out of 10,000 people, only 35 were getting called for a second round of personal interviews. That deflated any hopes, especially since the only person calling me was my grandma. ” Oprah didn’t call?” she asked in Spanish. As if it were a given. You gotta love your grandmas!

Thanks to EVERYONE who voted for me on Oprah! It was truly appreciated and I love all of your support! Stay tuned for more local stories on the challenges and perks of moving from clueless to cooking in the kitchen. :0)


Filed under cooking 101, Cooking for dummies, food, frustrated, newlywed, starting to cook, tips for new cooks

Springtime wishes in the kitchen

Many people have been asking me if I’m still “clueless” in the kitchen. That’s a loaded question! Well, the answer is no, not really or not as much. However, I will say that I have a long way to go until I feel like I can effortlessly rule the kitchen – which is my wish in the kitchen. Is it too romantic to wish a country home upon myself, with a big kitchen filled with the warmth of many home-cooked meals? When you’re coming from a clueless state of mind, learning how to cook takes time, effort and a little bit of sweat – just like getting into shape! Here are a few of the favorite things I’ve learned so far:

  1. Owning the supermarket! I started taking the advice of experts and shopping 2-3 times, buying fresher and menu planning. It’s been a few months now and we’re cooking more and spending way less. Check out our expert article on shopping for more help.
  2. Stocking up: Learning how to stock your pantry with necessities is as important as having the right tools in the kitchen. My favorite tools have become 1)timer, 2)meat thermometer 3) sharp chef’s and paring knives 4)timer and 5)hand blender/mixer
  3. My Fab Five Recipes: Instead of feeling overwhelmed by “hundreds of easy recipes,” I’ve picked a few favorites that keep us happy and cooking. Pan-seared Sea Scallops, Spaghetti al Pomodoro, Oven-Roasted Potatoes, Baked (but tastes as good as fried) Chicken Drumsticks, Stuffed Butternut-Squash, and Fresh Sausage, Root Vegetable & Bean Stew. Some of these recipes are favorites from the DVD and the others I’ve adapted from old recipes or my imagination. Now that I have some confidence, it’s becoming fun to play in the kitchen.

I hope you’re cooking more, loving life and dreaming up your own wishes in the kitchen!

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No-Fret Thanksgiving Tips

Are you taking on the Turkey yourself and need a few more tips to help you get through the weekend?

  1. Take a deep breath, start cooking on Wednesday and find some helpers! Remember, you can reduce an enormous amount of stress by starting things early. Almost everything can be made or prepped the day before.
  2. Set your timer & find your thermometer! You should calculate on cooking your turkey according to its weight. Allow 20 minutes per pound for 8-12 pound birds, 15 minutes per pound for 12-16 pounders. Let your turkey “sit” and rest for 10-15 minutes before carving it once it hits an internal temp of 155 degrees. Perfect internal temperature should be at 160-165 degrees. Then, your ready to eat. Get to 180 degrees and you’re overcooked!
  3. Smaller birds cook better: “They” say you should calculate 1.5 lbs of turkey per guest. That means 6-guests=9lb turkey. Since smaller birds tend to cook better, go with 2 smaller birds (12-lb max) as your guest list increases.

Going somewhere “else” for dinner?

  1. Offer to bring a side dish or appetizer. I’m making creamy mashed potatoes AND prosciutto pear bites!
  2. Grab some fresh bread from the local bakery. Pair with real artisan butter and you’ll be loved.
  3. Flowers and vino. You can’t go wrong with wine. For a sweet touch, pair with fresh flowers for the host.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

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If you could only eat ONE thing…

We all love playing this game: “If you could only eat ONE thing FOREVER, what would it be?” How many times have you played that?! I love the dramatic tone of this age-old question. I have a constant battle between sushi and pizza!

This came up while making homemade pizza this past week. It was so good! Pizza is something that both kids and adults love so much…sushi? maybe in Japan. Here are some tips for great homemade pizza. Try it this week and don’t forget to get some great RED wine to go along with it!

  1. Buy Fresh Dough! Almost all pizza shops sell it. Otherwise, grab some at Trader Joe’s or check with your baker in the supermarket. It usually costs $3 or less for enough to make a large pie or 2 small ones.
  2. It’s in the Sauce: Sauce matters. Many argue that it’s more important than cheese. I love Pomi brand, straight from Italy and very high quality. A local Italian shop is worth the find for this and other delicacies.
  3. Keep it Simple: This part is easy. Pick a few fresh ingredients that you love, be it traditional pepperoni, mushrooms, sausage or something fancier.
  4. Top with Fresh Basil: Basil and tomatoes were meant to be together. Make sure to buy FRESH basil and put it on the pizza just a couple of minutes before it’s ready (otherwise it will sadly wilt and burn).
  5. Share with Friends: This is a quick and fun meal you can make with friends. Don’t fret about having things ready when they arrive. Put them to work – rolling dough, chopping ingredients or pouring wine. They’ll love it.

Quickie Recipe for Homemade Pizza:

  • Allow fresh dough to settle at room temperature for about 35-40 minutes (easier to roll)
  • Pre-heat oven to 500 degrees
  • Roll fresh dough with rolling-pin or round object (i.e. pint glass) onto pizza stone, crisper or baking sheet. To prevent sticking, dust rolling-pin or object lightly with flour.
  • Spread layer of tomato sauce over rolled out dough. We love Pomi Marinara sauce, but you can make your own or use a favorite jar of pasta sauce to save time.
  • Add favorite toppings
  • Place pizza in the pre-heated oven. It should take anywhere from 15-20 minutes depending on your oven and your preference for crispness. Set your timer!! Check at 10 minutes and then add time as necessary until you get to know your oven and it’s power.

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A little place called Fayes

The entire time we were filming, producing and editing Cooking for the Clueless, I was excited about finishing it IMG_0389so that I could have it in the “Local Directors Only” section at Fayes Video & Espresso Bar. Don’t laugh! This is the local video shop across the street from our tiny apartment in San Francisco. In a neighborhood with Tartine Bakery, Bi-Rite and its Creamery, Delfina and Dolores Park are all within a block, Fayes stands tall as an awesome spot with great indie videos, better coffee than Tartine and the best bench on the block.

Living in the hood almost 7 years now always came with a daydream of being part of the local club of those who have put their passion into producing a film, documentary or short. Now, there’s something for those of you who are clueless in the kitchen. If you can’t buy the video, RENT IT! Available for rent only at Fayes.

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A Blog About Sausage?

I have to tell you that I never thought I would be writing about sausage. I know guys love it, so maybe I’ll have more manly men reading my post this week :0). My mother might say that it’s vulgar, but I just have to tell you about my new fascination with FRESH sausage (I know that sounds funny, keep adult commentary to yourselves).

Back to the kitchen…it’s easy to get very bored when you’re first learning how to cook, so I’m always looking to iStock_000002395168XSmalltry new things – something other than chicken breast, you know? Last month, I was cruising the meats section of my supermarket and noticed some fresh Italian sausage on sale, next to fresh andouille and fresh chorizo. I grabbed a couple packs and headed home to experiment. After an easy 12-minute boil for the Italian sausage, I threw it into Deborah Dal Fovo’s spaghetti al pomodoro recipe. The next night, we made German-Style grilled sausage and mashed potatoes! SO DELICIOUS! The andouille was used in an awesome egg scramble for brunch and the chorizo, home-style burritos. Now, we make a sausage meal about once a week. Really easy, since the sausages come wonderfully seasoned and it’s great to buy them fresh (less preservatives and all that stuff)!

Here’s a favorite savory sausage recipe variation from a Kiwi cookbook I bought while traveling in New Zealand a few years ago:


  • 6 pork sausages
  • 1 large onion
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 ounce malt vinegar (30 ml)
  • 1 cooking apple
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 ounce Worcester sauce (15 ml)
  • 5 ounces water (150 ml)

Coarsely chop apple, onion and place in casserole dish. Mix in other ingredients and submerge sausage in the mixture. Cover and slow cook at 250 degrees F for 2 hours. Serve with creamy mashed potatoes and green beans or peas.

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