Before Rachael Ray brought her cooking show spots to daytime TV on a network station, before the TV chefs became a celebrity phenomenon, the Taste of Home Cooking School's home economists and culinary specialists were taking their cooking shows on the road. They still are. One week from today I will be sitting in the audience at one in Morgantown, WV. One year ago I was onstage, helping make the show happen.
Newspapers and other sponsors bring the shows to venues in their cities. This one happens to be in a concert theater at a university arts center. National food makers sponsor the shows too so their products get plugged in the recipe demonstrations.
The home economists that present the shows travel a particular several-state region of the country. They come to town and an advance team of workers from the sponsoring newspaper help unpack their equipment, shop for ingredients and prep all the recipes they'll be presenting at that night's show. They chop, measure and sort so the host can show different steps of the recipes. There are lights and cameras to catch the action at the onstage workstation close up. The night of the show, more volunteers help on the stage and behind the scenes. They shuttle trays of ingredients and ferry dishes into and out of ovens and refrigerators. They complete steps in recipes and garnish final products. Sometimes they even pass samples. One year that I helped onstage I burned my arm and couldn't yell anything.
The shows are a lot of fun. Before you turn up your nose, you should know that even I usually learn something -- a technique or even just a fact. It's not all how to use convenience products. Much of it is from-scratch. Though there are different kinds of Taste of Home Cooking Schools and Quick Cooking On Stage is the one that leans heavily on pre-prepped convenience products. There are also different themes. The show I'll be seeing is Fresh Ideas For Fall. There's also Homemade For The Holidays appearing in other markets.
Besides the fun of seeing a live cooking demonstration you get goodies. Every attendee gets a bag containing a magazine with all the night's recipes and room to take notes plus many more recipes. There are often coupons and sample sizes of products. Sometimes there are little gadgets like some cheap plastic scrapers or measuring spoons. Local sponsors donate prizes such as groceries and mixers and coffee makers for drawings. Vendors such as Pampered Chef and Tupperware consultants, gourmet and specialty shopkeepers and sometimes nonfood related industries such as massage therapists set up outside the auditorium and give away more goodies.
I like getting ideas for quick dinners and impressive entertaining.
I'm kind of a gloryhound so I LOVED being onstage more than I care to admit. But this year, because I don't work for that newspaper anymore, I'm delighted to be able to sit back and enjoy the show and be eligible for prizes. The past couple of years they've given away the final dishes that were prepared onstage in a pretty serving dish from Taste of Home's home-party line.
New this year is the chance to ask questions of the home economist.
I hope you'll join me -- if not in Morgantown, then in spirit at a show near your own city.
Find a show near you at http://www.tasteofhome.com/cooking-schools/find-a-cooking-school. Tickets are reasonable -- about $10. Doors open a couple of hours before the show.
Here is an AWESOME recipe from last year's show that I've made several times. Mmm-mmm!
ALMOND CRUMBLE TWIST
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons almond extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups chopped slivered almonds, walnuts or pecans
12 Rhodes White Dinner Rolls or 8 Rhodes Texas Rolls, thawed to room temperature
Browned Butter Icing:
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup confectioner's sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 tablespoon almond extract
In a small bowl, mix buter and brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in flour, almond extract and cinnamon until smooth. Stir in almonds. Cover and chill 30 minutes.
Spray work surface with nonstick cooking spray. Combine rolls to form a ball and roll into a 15-inch-by-10-inch rectangle. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest while almond mixture is chilling.
Remove plastic wrap and sprinkle filling evenly over the dough to within 1 inch of all edges. Roll up tightly, jelly roll style, starting with a long side. With a sharp, serrated knife, cut roll in half lengthwise. Turn each half so he cut side is facing up. Carefully twist halves together so cut sides can be sween. Pinch ends together. Place on a large, greased baking sheet. Cover with greased plastic wrap. Let rise 30-45 minutes.
Remove wrap and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cover with foil the last 5 minutes, if necessary, to prevent over browning. Cool slightly on wire rack.
Meanwhile, lightly brown butter in a small heavy skillet over medium heat. Do not burn. Remove from heat and blend in confectioners' sugar, milk and almond extract until mixture is smooth. Drizzle over warm loaf. Yield: 1 loaf.