Food & Drink

Learn to be a better cook at Taste of Home Cooking School

Michelle Roberts was testing recipes in her Mississippi home last week in preparation for Thursday’s Taste of Home event at the Columbus Civic Center.

A friend’s young son was helping her taste-test recipes.

“I like them,” said Nathan Dunnel of the recipes he was tasting. Nathan, 8, said he doesn’t mind being a human guinea pig.

“The goodest one was the popcorn stuff (Snickerdoodle Chex Mix),” he said. Roberts demonstrated that recipe during last year’s cooking school. (Find a recipe for that dish on page C3)

Roberts is the senior culinary specialist and territory manager for the Taste of Home Cooking Schools. In Columbus, she’ll cook new recipes like Gingered Carrot Soup and Chicken Balsamico. Guests attending the cooking school will receive packets containing those recipes.

Roberts tested the Gingered Carrot Soup and Chicken Balsamico on Nathan.

“I had the carrot soup,” he said without much enthusiasm. “I like carrots ... I didn’t have a good feeling about the soup. I didn’t like the soup.

“But the Chicken Balsamico ... I liked that. Most of the things she makes I like. I still want to eat it.”

Nathan doesn’t just hang out with Roberts for her food. She helps him with his homework when he needs help. He’s the son of a good friend, she said.

Roberts says Nathan is a picky eater. But she now knows that he’ll at least try foods that he may say he doesn’t like.

Good local response

“We had over 1,800 people attend last year’s show,” said Heather Williams, vice president of marketing for the Ledger-Enquirer. “We expect 1,500 people for our Third annual Taste of Home Cooking School.”

Roberts says the 2008 show had 800 people with a waiting list at the Columbus Convention & Trade Center. With the move to the Columbus Civic Center in 2009, the number of people increased.

“I still cannot believe it increased by that much,” Roberts said. “I figured we’d have maybe 1,000. I hope we have a good turn-out again.”

What’s the secret to the event’s success?

“I think it’s just the brand,” Roberts said. “Everybody knows the brand. It’s just one of those things.”

People love the recipes because you can find the ingredients in your pantry or are available in grocery stores, they’re simple, easy to make and flavorful.

“It’s for cooks of every level,” Roberts said. “The recipes are not intimidating. You don’t have to spend a lot of time but you still get good results.”

This year, there are new cookbooks that will be given away as door prizes.

“This is one of my favorite shows to come to Columbus each year,” Williams said. “We have so much fun learning about new recipes and sharing laughs and ideas. Two years ago, Michelle demonstrated a recipe for freezer slaw. It’s one of my favorite recipes that I make once a month.”

Roberts, 32, is a graduate of the Mississippi University for Women in Columbus, Miss., with a degree in culinary arts. On Sept. 16, she celebrated her eighth anniversary with Taste of Home.

She drives 35,000-40,000 miles a year, but she’s only tired of traveling when she returns to her home. However, after a few days home, Roberts says she’s raring to get back on the road.

“I’ve been fortunate to go and see places that I would otherwise not have the time or a reason to go there,” she said.

And when she gets home, there’s always Nathan to coach on his homework and try out new recipes.



1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup water

1 package (12 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries

1 to 3 tablespoons prepared horseradish

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened

Assorted crackers

In a large saucepan, bring sugars and water to a boil over medium heat. Stir in cranberries; return to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Cool.

Stir in horseradish and mustard. Transfer to a large bowl; refrigerate until chilled. Just before serving, spread cream cheese over crackers; top with cranberry mixture. Yield: 2 1/2 cups.

Nutrition Facts: 1 serving (1/4 cup) equals 178 calories, 8 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 25 mg cholesterol, 114 mg sodium, 26 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 2 g protein.


4 boneless pork loin chops (5 ounces each)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

3/4 cup thinly sliced red onion

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup cider vinegar

3 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons honey Dijon mustard

Sprinkle pork chops with salt and pepper. In a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray, cook pork over medium heat for four-six minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Remove and keep warm.

Add the remaining ingredients to the skillet; stir to loosen browned bits. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for two minutes or until thickened. Return chops to the pan. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for four-five minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 160°.

Nutrition Facts: 1 pork chop with 2 tablespoons onion mixture equals 261 calories, 9 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 69 mg cholesterol, 257 mg sodium, 17 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 28 g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 4 lean meat, 1 starch.


1 package (16 ounces) bow tie pasta

2 cups grape tomatoes

7 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed

1 medium sweet yellow pepper, chopped

1 small red onion, chopped

1/2 cup pickled banana pepper rings

1 can (2 1/4 ounces) sliced ripe olives, drained

4 thin slices hard salami, diced

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced


3/4 cup olive oil

3/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon dried basil

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and rinse in cold water. In a large bowl, combine the pasta, tomatoes, cheese, yellow pepper, onion, pepper rings, olives, salami and basil.

In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the dressing ingredients; shake well. Pour over salad and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. Yield: 18 servings.

Nutrition Facts: 3/4 cup equals 224 calories, 13 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 11 mg cholesterol, 221 mg sodium, 22 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 6 g protein.


1 cup dried cherries, chopped

1/3 cup hot water

6 tablespoons shortening

6 tablespoons butter, softened

1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

3 teaspoons grated orange peel

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups quick-cooking oats

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

In a small bowl, soak cherries in hot water for at least 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, cream the shortening, butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, orange peel and vanilla. Combine the oats, flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Stir in the chocolate chip and cherries with liquid.

Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls two inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 12-14 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool for one minute before removing from pans to wire racks.

Nutrition Facts: 2 cookies equals 286 calories, 11 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 29 mg cholesterol, 148 mg sodium, 45 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 4 g protein.


1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 cups Cinnamon Chex® cereal

2 cups Chocolate Chex® cereal

4 cups popped popcorn

1/4 cup butter or margarine

In small bowl, mix sugar and cinnamon; set aside. In large microwavable bowl, mix cereals and popcorn.

In one-cup microwavable measuring cup, microwave butter uncovered, on high about 40 seconds or until melted. Pour over cereal mixture, stirring until evenly coated.

Microwave uncovered on high two minutes, stirring after one minute. Sprinkle half of the sugar mixture evenly over cereal mixture; stir. Sprinkle with remaining sugar mixture; stir. Microwave one minute longer. Spread on waxed paper or paper towels to cool. Store in airtight container.

Nutrition Facts: For one Serving. Calories 100 (calories from fat 35); total fat 3 1/2 g (saturated fat 2 g, trans fat 0 g); cholesterol 10 mg; sodium 80 mg; total carbohydrate 15 g (dietary fiber 0 g, sugars 5 g); protein 1 g.

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