Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Deer Valley Menu Preview

Deer Valley is now open for the winter ski season. The resort is known not only for it's snow, but for its stellar cuisine.  A few weeks ago Utah food writers were invited for a preview of some new items that will be on the menus of the Deer Valley restaurants.  Here are some of them:
Roasted Chicken  Piccata served at Royal Street Cafe. A Coleman brand all-natural chicken breast has a pan sauce of lemon, white wine, capers and dill and is served on a bed of spinach pappardelle with roasted butternut squash.

Tomatillo Crusted Sturgeon Fillet from The Mariposa. The seafood is surrounded with pools of roasted red pepper and black bean sauces and topped with frisee, chayote, local sweet corn and heirloom cherry tomatoes.

Jerk Marinated Grey Snapper is pooled in a  Jamaican coconut "rundown" sauce and topped with little balls of fresh honeydew melon for a nice  ratio of heat and sweet. A yam chip is perched on top.

Milk Chocolate Cremeaux Tart from The Mariposa is polished with salted caramel, yuzu jam and a sesame cracker.

Pomegranate Napoleon from Seafood Buffet has layers of mascarpone mousse that uses Utah-produced Slide Ridge honey. One pomegranate seed was encased in a hot candy syrup that hardened into a crystalline effect. 

Harmons Hosting Extreme Gingerbread House-Making Event

Gingerbread, icing and candy will be flying fast and furious as local children and adults build gingerbread houses during Harmons’ Extreme Gingerbread Event, Saturday, Dec. 10 at Harmons’ Bangerter Crossing Store, 125 East 13800 South in Draper.  Children and their parents will participate in a gingerbread house-making class on the store’s mezzanine under the supervision of Harmons’ chefs and bakers, starting at noon. Close by, inside Harmons’ Cooking School kitchen, three teams of professional architects will construct houses out of heavy-duty gingerbread as they compete for charity.

The public is encouraged to drop by to see the progress of the architects from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. or to watch video updates of the event. When the houses are completed, individuals can vote for their favorites online. In the store a panel of Harmons’ associates and children will pick a winner based on imagination, creativity and technique.

The architects participating in this event are members of the Board of Directors of the Utah Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Their unique gingerbread structures will be on display in the store until Dec. 16, when they will be auctioned off at a special Cooking School Holiday Party. Half of the auction proceeds will be used to purchase food for the Utah Food Bank and the other half will benefit The One Percent, an architectural charitable organization that provides design support services for communities in need.  

Space for participation in the gingerbread house-making class for children is limited. The public can register online at Children must be 6 – 12 years old and accompanied by a parent at all times.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Weekend at Grandma's

Anthony and Jayden spent the weekend here while their folks are on a cruise. In the past 48 hours we have:
Raked lots and lots of leaves in the backyard.
Lonn & Jayden raking leaves.
Jonathan's creative gingerbread house.
Made gingerbread houses with Amy, Brayden, Anthony and his friends Jonathan and Sam.

Went to the playground with Annalise, Jayden's friend from across the street.
Saw a display of about 500 Nativity scenes at the Kaysville Tabernacle.
Saw the 35-foot (real) Christmas tree and skating rink at the Station Park stores in Farmington. Tried to see Santa but Jayden got scared and began screaming.
Played Old Maid, War and Match Game.
Went to church.
Made refrigerator magnets from Perler beads.
Went on a walk.
Made pink Rice Krispies treats.
Sam's house caved in so he ate it. 
Anthony 's creation wasn't really a house.
Made Barbie a new skirt.
Did puzzles.
Made lots of mac & cheese and chocolate milk.
Told Jayden's story of the girl who "put on a little red outfit so the fox would chase her on the way to her grandma's house." And then, "The fox said I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house down."
Watched Sponge Bob.
The idea was to keep t hem so busy they wouldn't miss Mom & Dad. What a weekend! I need the week to recuperate.

So what if it's not perfect? The kids had fun.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner is Good For You!

Since the past few weeks I've received flurries of press releases on how to cut the calories out of Thanksgiving dinner, it was refreshing to see this article posted on the It pointed out that some of the Thanksgiving staples are actually packed with nutrition (although I suspect that when they're swimming in gravy, butter and cream, they can't really be considered "health food.") 
As one of my foodie friends pointed out, Thanksgiving is just one day of the year, so enjoy it. That doesn't mean we need to have three or four helpings until we're rolling from the table! But we can slowly savor every bite of your favorite dishes as we enjoy friends and family and offer thanks for the many wonderful things in our lives. 
I think my downfall isn't the meal itself, but the post-dinner snacking, where I'll polish off another helping of mashed potatoes while I'm loading the dishwasher, and grab another piece of pie just because it's there!

Here's some of the nutrition you're getting in your Thanksgiving dinner:
Turkey is a great source of lean protein, selenium, niacin, vitamin B6 and phosphorous, as well as tryptophan that is essential for appetite and mood regulation. 
Cranberries contain vitamin C, fiber, manganese and vitamin K and are known for their help in maintaining a healthy urinary tract. 
Potatoes contain vitamin C, B6, copper, potassium, manganese, iron, protein and fiber- as well as a variety of antioxidants. Keep the skin on because that is where many of the nutrients are found.
Pecans contain vitamins A and E, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, potassium, several B vitamins and zinc. They also contain fiber and protein, and are a good source of heart healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats.  The Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry found that, “pecans rank highest among all nuts and are among the top category of foods to contain the highest antioxidant capacity.”
Pumpkin contains potassium, zinc, dietary fiber and the bright orange color indicates that pumpkin is rich in the antioxidant beta-carotene, which is great for our eyesight and more.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

BIGGEST LOSER: "Where Are They Now?" Special Airs Nov. 23

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Viewers will have the oppportunity to catch up with some of their favorite contestants from past seasons of "The Biggest Loser," on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 7 p.m. Mountain Standard Time.  They will also get to see bloopers of behind-the-scenes moments with the host, trainers and season 12 contestants. 
Alison Sweeney hosts the special, filmed before a live audience, and trainers Bob Harper, Anna Kournikova and Dolvett Quince will all be on hand to share their thoughts about the current season of the show. Cameras will also follow trainer Bob Harper through “a day in the life.” 
Fan favorites like Abby Rike (season eight), Tara Costa (season seven), O’Neal Hampton (season nine) and season five winner Ali Vincent will reveal what they are up to now, along with season eight champ Danny Cahill and season 11 winner Olivia Ward. Viewers can also catch up with Hannah Curlee (season 11) and Jesse Atkins (season 10) as well as other popular players like season seven’s Sione Fa and Jerry and Estella Hayes, who give their updates via personal videos.

One contestant makes a big surprise announcement, and another shares her emotional story of competing in one of the most difficult competitions in the world. And there's an update on the condition of season nine contestant Sam Poueu, who was critically injured after falling from a four-story building in September. Considering the head trauma he suffered, word is that his recovery has been miraculous (thanks to all the prayers on his behalf!) and he's now undergoing physical therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy. 

Cooking expert Aida Mollenkamp will prepare a healthy Thanksgiving feast for the trainers and past season contestants, and share great cooking tips as well. Currently, Aida is host of two shows on the Cooking Channel: “Ask Aida”, where she shares her knowledge of food while dishing out culinary therapy, and “Foodcrafters,” where Aida leaves the kitchen to uncover handmade food finds from around the nation.  

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

HOG HEAVEN: Humanely Raised, All-Natural Pork at Vernon Farm

Photo by Valerie Phillips
For the past few weeks I've been working on a Deseret News story about Christiansen's pig farm in Vernon, Utah, known as "Hog Heaven" because of the way they raise their pigs.  If you're wondering where Vernon is, it's about 20 miles south of Rush Valley (where I grew up) and about 40 miles south of  Tooele.

Photo by Valerie Phillips
I was glad that I made arrangements to visit the farm in October, before the bad weather hit. I enjoyed going out with Hollie Christiansen and her daughter, Shia, to feed their pigs. All the pig farms I've ever known were pretty stinky.  But this one didn't have any tell-tale odor when I drove up to the house. I even wondered if I was at the right place! But I left with a few manure souvenirs on my shoes, from focusing on taking photos and not where I was stepping.

Chef Ryan Lowder of Copper Onion 
No wonder the farm is known as "Hog Heaven."  Chefs consider the Christiansen's all-natural pork a bit of heaven itself — tender and juicy with lots flavor.  Chef Ryan Lowder uses it at his restaurant, Copper Onion, because "they do the best job, and the quality is a better product all the way around," he said. The pork will also be used in Lowder's second restaurant, Plum Alley.

"We found the quality of animals was phenomenal when we treat the animals humanely, and allow pigs to live as pigs," said Christian Christiansen.  Lowder and the Christiansens gave the public a chance to taste the difference at a pig roast held at the Utah Fairpark last month, as part of an end-of-season farewell for the Pioneer Park Farmers Market. The Christiansens donated three pigs, and Lowder and other staff made an outdoor roasting box where they cooked them. Many of the 200-or-so people who feasted on the meat noted that it was very tender, flavorful and darker than the usual store-bought pork.

Christian Christiansen says three factors made the difference: breed, quality feed and humane treatment. The Christiansens raise purebred Berkshires, a heritage breed also known as Kurobuta pork. The breed was popular before World War II, and produces pork that's darker, meatier and marbled with fat.

 "Older people taste it and say, 'This is what pork tasted like when I was a kid,'" Christian said.  Over the past few decades, commercially raised pigs were bred to be leaner, as "low-fat" became the trend. Marketers called pork, "The Other White Meat" to compete with the hugely popular chicken breast.  Unfortunately, the lack of fat marbling resulted in meat that was more dry, with less flavor.

 "Our meat is a darker color, and it has fat marbled throughout," said Christian Christiansen. "It's like the Kobe beef of pork. Berkshires are the least cost-effective to raise, because they have a slower growth rate. But the quality is phenomenal."  Other restaurants who use the Christiansens' pork include Pizzeria 712 and Communal in Utah County, St. Regis and The Farm in Park City, and Pago in Salt Lake City. People can buy the pork at Caputo's Market and Deli, or order it online at

White House Sweet Potatoes Recipe

Looking for a new way to do Thanksgiving sweet potatoes — a change of pace from marshmallows on top?
Here's the recipe served by the Obamas and around 50 guests in 2009. It is featured in “A White House Garden Cookbook: Healthy Ideas from the First Family for Your Family” by Clara Silverstein. The Obamas have a fondness for sweet potatoes. 

This recipe looks almost TOO healthy: lots of spices, very little butter and no brown sugar or marshmallows. it serves four, so you will need to double or triple it for a bigger group. 

Despite the long history of White House Thanksgiving traditions and a 
1789 call by George Washington to make November 26 a national day of 
“public thanksgiving,” it was not until the 1840s that Thanksgiving 
dinner was first served there, under James K. Polk’s administration. 

Since then, each passing First Family has altered and added to those 
traditions with their unique contributions of food preferences and 
customs. For example, Harry S. Truman started the annual White House 
tradition of pardoning a turkey before Thanksgiving.

Readers can learn more about the cookbook and how Thanksgiving 
is celebrated at the White House by visiting

The book includes other Thanksgiving recipes from the White House and 
community gardens around the country, such as Fennel-Parsnip Puree, Pear 
& Fennel Salad, Kohlrabi & Carrot Stew, Tasty Greens with Turnips, Baby 
Carrots with Orange Juice & Cinnamon, Nutty Carrot & Cabbage Salad, 
various salsas, White House Baked Sliced Apples, and White House Apple 

White House Whipped Sweet Potatoes
Serves 4

3 medium (12 to 16 ounces each) sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons butter
⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon ground cumin
⅛ teaspoon chili powder
Pinch of ground cloves
4 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt to taste

1. Set the oven at 425 degrees.
2. Wash the potatoes, pat dry, and wrap each one in foil. Place on a 
baking sheet and bake until soft all the way through, approximately one 
hour cooking time will vary depending on the size of he potatoes).
3. Remove the potatoes from the oven. Unwrap the foil and allow them to 
cool enough to handle.
4. Cut each potato in half. Scoop out the inside and place in a large 
mixing bowl.
5. Add the butter, cinnamon, cumin, chili powder, cloves, orange juice, 
and lemon juice. Using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment on 
medium speed, whip the potatoes until smooth and all the ingredients are 
incorporated, 1 to 2 minutes.
6. Add the salt and serve.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

NEXT IRON CHEF: Chefs With Utah Ties

While flipping channels a few nights ago, I happened upon "The Next Iron Chef" competition, where some high-level chefs are cooking for the next chance to be a regular with Bobby Flay, Mario Batali, Cat Cora and other on the Food Network's popular "Iron Chef" series. 
The contestants aren't unknown chefs; most of them have some fame at their restaurant, have published cookbooks or have done food TV. 
I enjoyed seeing some familiar faces who have cooked here in Utah.

Marcus Samuelsson came to Utah in 2001 to help cook for a Salt Lake Olympic Committee "one-year-out" party at Park City Mountain Resort,.  At the time, he owned Aquavit restaurant in New York City, had won the James Beard Foundation's "Best Rising Star Chef" award in 1999, and was profiled by People magazine in 2000 as one of America's top five eligible bachelors.
 I interviewed him as he was preparing for the Olympics event, which also had ties to the James Beard Foundation. "How often does an Ethiopian kid from Sweden get to cook for the Olympics?" said Samuelsson, who was orphaned as a child in Ethiopia, then adopted by a Swedish couple. "This is a real privilege, and when an organization like James Beard Foundation asks you, you don't turn it down."
His star has continued to rise, as he oversaw President Barack Obama's first state dinner. 

Beau Macmillan was one of the cooks in 2010 at Chefdance in Park City. One of the traditions that has evolved around the Sundance Film Festival, a different "celebrity" chef is brought in to cook each night for about 250 of the entertainment industry's movers, shakers, and their friends.  MacMillan, chef at Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain in Phoenix, was also one of the "boot camp" instructors on the Food Network's "Worst Cook in America"
At his Chefdance gig, MacMillan served seared scallops with creamed Anson Mill grits, chorizo and tomato jam; chilled lump crab salad, passion fruit and avocado; braised short ribs with salsify fondue and garlic cherry glaze; and salted caramel panna cotta with caramel corn and chocolate peanuts.

As far as I know, Michael Chiarello hasn't done any cooking in Utah; but I did meet him during a Pillsbury Bake-off in San Francisco in 1998. He cooked a spring asparagus risotto for the food editors and admonished us to eat foods in season, noting that  asparagus always tastes better in the spring.

Current "Iron Chefs" who have visited Utah:

Bobby Flay did a segment of his "Food Nation" series in 2003 where he took part in a Dutch Oven Gathering (known by Dutch oven enthusiasts as a DOG). He also helped cook sourdough scones, chicken 'n' dumplings and lamb at the Lion House Pantry,  sampled venison sausage and elk jerky and visited some Utah ski resorts.

Cat Cora has cooked several times at Sundance dinner parties, including one for the Humane Society of the United States in 2009 that included Paris Hilton, Nigel Barker of "America's Next Top Model," actor Alan Cumming, and Slash of the rock groups Velvet Revolver and Guns N'Roses. The vegan menu featured a silky roasted winter squash and saffron soup, herbed potato risotto spiked with chanterelle mushrooms, and a rich chocolate ganache tartlet with a salted caramel gelato accented with peanut brittle.For appetizers, there were pretty little chickpea fritters and polenta squares topped with Swiss chard, candied pumpkin seeds and a sliver of sun-dried tomato.

Alton Brown - "Iron Chef" announcer, came through Southern Utah in 2006 as a biker dude for his series "Feasting On Asphalt." In a later interview, he told me that one of his favorite places was the Mexican Hat Motor Lodge. "They have a grill that swings back and forth over the fire, and it was a cool place. We ended up eating there one night with a German Harley- Davidson club."

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran's Day: Taking My Hubby Out For A Free Meal

Since today was Veteran's Day, my daughter and  I took my hubby, Kim, out to lunch.  Of course we wanted to honor him (and I wanted to say thanks for putting those new shocks on my car as well).

But there was also a little ulterior motive on my part. For several years I have written about restaurants offering a free meal to veterans, and I wondered what the experience was like. Super-crowded? Not as great as expected?

We went to the Applebee's in Bountiful at about 3:30 p.m., and it seemed so quiet when we walked in that I wondered if I'd made a mistake in my reporting of this event.  But, it turned out that there were lots of tables taken, there just wasn't a crowd waiting for a table. The press release said that some form of military ID was required.  Kim was wearing his Vietnam Vet hat, but I also brought along  the shadow box my daughter made for him, with his photos and army insignia. I mean, anyone could put on a hat and say they served, right?  But, the hostess didn't seem to worried that we were trying to sneak a free meal.

Veterans had a special menu with quite a few choices, and Kim chose the Double Crunch Shrimp. He said his meal was great, although he didn't realize the shrimp were going to be deep-fried. (What puts the crunch in "double crunch?") Amy and I ordered off the regular menu, of course. She was happy with the  buffalo wings and side salad, and I enjoyed a grilled shrimp and spinach salad, with crunchy almond slices and a sweet, bacony dressing.

A hostess came to our table and gave us a $5 voucher to use on a future visit to Applebee's, and thanked Kim for his service. Those words of thanks still mean something to him, because when he came home from Vietnam, there was no hero's welcome. War protesters were calling soldiers "baby killers" and most Americans just wanted the war to be over.

While we were finishing our meal, the waiting area began to fill. It was interesting to watch people walk in and guess where or when they served their country. Kim talked to a man who served in three wars: World War II, Korean War and Vietnam. 

Our overall experience was a positive one. The food and service were great, and there was a feeling of comradery, mostly unspoken, among the diners there.

But I would advise anyone to go before 4 p.m. You'll avoid a long wait for a table, and wait staff usually give better service when they're not rushed and trying to turn over tables quickly.

Next year I hope to make the trek out Tooele way and take my Dad to Applebee's there. He served in the Navy during World War II.  It's not a matter of getting a "free meal," because we certainly could buy him lunch elsewhere.  But it felt like we were part of something a little special today, and I'd like for him to feel that way as well.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Blue Boar Inn's Thanksgiving Feast

The Blue Boar Inn & Restaurant in Midway ( will offer its annual Thanksgiving Day menu on Thursday, Nov. 24.

The fixed-price, three-course menu will feature Blue Boar salad with pomegranate seeds, feta and honey vinaigrette; roasted chestnut and forest mushroom soup with sage cream, fried shitakes and chestnuts. The main course will include garlic and herb rubbed turkey with parmesan mashed potato, spinach and ricotta stuffing, pan gravy and cranberry sauce and double-cut pork chop featuring a sweet potato puree, glazed carrot and brussel sprouts and a maple glaze.

Executive Chef Eric May will also prepare two less traditional Thanksgiving entrées: pan seared Chilean sea bass with rock shrimp, grape tomatoes and house-made Pappardelle pasta and slow-roasted prime rib prepared with sautéed brussels sprouts, white cheddar twice-baked potato, aus jus and horseradish cream.

Desserts will include individual apple pies with caramel sauce and cinnamon Chantilly cream, pumpkin mousse chocolate tart with walnut toffee crunch and New York style cheesecake with macerated berries and raspberry glaze. 

The Blue Boar Inn & Restaurant will offer the Thanksgiving Day menu from noon to 6 p.m. The cost is $45 for adults and $15 for children 12 and under. A full wine selection is also available. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 888-650-1400.
For more information on The Blue Boar Inn & Restaurant, visit

Thanksgiving Dinner at Park City Restaurants

I've always thought that Thanksgiving should be one day of the year when you have a home-cooked meal. But increasingly, that's changing. In past posts I've written about Mimi's Cafe and Marie Callender's offering take-out and dine-in feasts. Several Park City restaurants are also offering Thanksgiving dinner, at typical Park City prices.

Grub Steak Restaurant will be serving Thanksgiving dinner, as well as a full regular menu, from 3-8pm. The Thanksgiving menu includes Parsnip and Pear Puree Soup, Salad, Roasted Turkey, Cornbread and Herb Stuffing, Traditional Gravy, Creamy Green Beans, Mashed Potatoes, Fresh Citrus Cranberry Relish, Oat & Barley Beer Bread and a choice of Pumpkin Pie or Chocolate Pecan Pie. The pre fixe menu is $24.75 for adults and $13.75 for children under 12. Reservations can be made by visiting or by calling 435-649-8060.

The Glitretind at Stein Eriksen Lodge will offer a Thanksgiving buffet from 11am-7pm. The buffet will feature two soups, 11 types of starters and salads, a prime rib and turkey carving station, eight entree varieties and four types of desserts. A  kids' buffet will also be available. Dinner is $65 for adults and $25 for children ages 5-12. Reservations are not required. For more information, call 435-645-6455.

Deer Valley Resort will offer a to-go option for diners who prefer to have Thanksgiving dinner at home but without the preparation. Their catering menu includes roasted garlic mashed potatoes, steamed green beans with shiitake mushrooms, roasted acorn squash, house-made struan stuffing, lemon thyme sauce and cranberry stuffing. Orders must be placed by Monday, November 21 by calling 435-615-2400.
The Deer Valley Bakery will also offer made-to-order pies including old-fashioned pumpkin, sweet potato pecan, apple cheddar, traditional pecan or chocolate silk. Sweet breads are also available and include apple ginger, pumpkin walnut and cranberry orange pecan. Bakery orders must be placed by Monday, November 21 by calling 435-645-6623.
For more information on Thanksgiving menus in Park City, visit

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

BIGGEST LOSER: Joe Gets Blindsided; Bonnie Proves Herself

Joe Mitchell, voted off "The Biggest Loser"
Tonight's episode of "The Biggest Loser" showed the darker side of some players. Joe Mitchell was voted off by Antone, the roommate he thought had his back. 
A former NFL player, Antone knows all about blindsiding; Joe apparently didn't. 
 Ramon spent the week carrying a grudge against those who voted off his new love, Jessica, last week. But in the end, it's a game, and for all the talk about who "needs to be here the most" or  who is putting out the most effort, people are going to vote off the person they perceive as the biggest threat. This week, it was Joe; last week, people thought Jessica was the stronger player over Bonnie.  

But this week Bonnie held her own, dropping eight pounds. She seems willing to push harder with trainer Dolvett than she did Anna Kournikova.
As the field is narrowing, who do you think will win? Up until a few weeks ago, I thought it would be John or Antone, members of the invincible black team. John also pulled consistently high numbers, which kept him safe.  But now the teams are switched up, and John more vulnerable since being paired  with Bonnie, the oldest (and who some consider the weakest) player. Sunny and Becky aren't consistent; their weight loss can fluctuate wildly from week to week. Vinnie doesn't pull the big numbers as expected for his size, but if he gets more serious, he could be a major player.
Antone may have started at over 400 pounds, but I suspect his muscles have some memory in them and he can handle grueling workouts better than your usual couch potato. 
Antone also showed that he can be ruthless, when he voted off Joe. Frankly, I was a disappointed. Can a person be true to their friends and still win?  I guess the answer is, at the end of the day, your friends are still your competition in this game.
Ramone is my wild-card choice. When he's motivated, he's really works hard. And when makeover week happens, he can easily shed a couple of pounds just by cutting his hair.   

I enjoyed seeing chef Devin Alexander, author of "The Biggest Loser" cookbooks, on the episode. I met Devin in 2004 at the Pillsbury Bake-off in Hollywood, where she spoke to food editors about her career as a caterer for celebrities such as Reba McEntire and Carol Burnett. She was known for her ability to cook healthy, low-calorie meals. After her presentation, I asked her for some help on a Hollywood travel story that I was working on for the Deseret News. She was very helpful, we exchanged a few emails when I returned home.  
Unfortunately, my travel story never made it to print, due to how quickly the entertainment business changes. I wrote about  the Brad Pitt/Jennifer Aniston compound as a highlight of a "homes of the stars" bus tour. Soon after, the couple split. I wrote about being in the audience of the Ryan Seacrist show, and how to get tickets — it was canceled two weeks later. I'd managed to score a lunch reservation at the Ivy — a supposed hangout of A-list celebrities — but had to cancel in order to cover Pillsbury Bake-off events. I guess it was just fate.
Over the years, Alexander emailed occasionally about her latest projects, so I knew beforehand when she made her debut on "The Biggest Loser" several years ago. She has also written successful cookbooks of her own, such as "Fast Food Fix" offering healthy versions of fast-food items.

Free Meals For Veterans

Applebee's House Sirloin
Several restaurants are offering free "thank you" meals on Veterans Day, including Applebee's and Texas Roadhouse.
For the third consecutive year nationwide, Applebee's expects to serve more than one million free thank you meals to veterans and active duty military on Nov. 11, from 11 a.m.-midnight.
Proof of service includes a U.S. Uniform Services Identification Card or retired ID card, current leave and earnings statement, Veterans organization card, photo in uniform or wearing your uniform, or a citation or commendation.

Veterans can choose from seven menu items, included a 7-ounce House Sirloin, Bacon Cheddar Cheeseburger, Double-Crunch Shrimp, Fiesta Lime Chicken, Three-Cheese Chicken Penne and Oriental Chicken Salad. Beverages and tips are not included in the offer.

TEXAS ROADHOUSES will offer a free lunch to veterans on Nov. 11, from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. The meal includes a choice of ten entrees, and Coca-Cola beverage product, tea or coffee. Proof of service includes military or VA card, or discharge papers.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Senator Mike Lee Serves Up Funeral Potatoes and Green Jell-O

Senator Mike Lee is serving up iconic Utah foods at  this week's Republican Lunch Group in Washington, D.C.  A different Senator hosts the event each week, sharing signature foods from his or her home state. 

According to his press secretary Emily Bennion, Senator Lee has decided on the following menu to share with his colleagues:

Sanpete BBQ turkey steaks from Moroni
Funeral potatoes
Green Salad
Honey glazed carrots
Green Jell-O
Lion House rolls
Kneader's raspberry bread pudding with vanilla sauce and ice cream

"Senator Lee is proud to showcase these Utah-specific foods as some of his  favorites," Bennion said in an email. (What, no fry sauce?)

I'm all for the turkey steaks, the Lion House rolls, the Kneader's dessert,  and the honey-glazed carrots since this is the Beehive state with producers such as Cox's and Slide Ridge Honey. I'm even OK with Funeral Potatoes (although they are called Heartstopper Hash Browns in other parts of the country for all their artery-clogging sour cream, butter and cheese).
But I'm still embarrassed about that green Jell-O, although aren't we supposed to embrace those kinds of quirky things about our home state? 

I am partly to blame by the .  In 1994, while I was food editor at the Standard-Examiner,  I interviewed a Jell-O marketing executive who told me that Utah consumed the most lime-flavoared Jell-O per capita of any state. (Most places preferred red.)

My story was picked up by the AP wire, and it didn't take long for everyone else to jump on the green, jiggly bandwagon. And those Green Jell-O pins during the Olympics only added to our reputation.

At least, Senator Lee isn't serving fry sauce on those Funeral Potatoes. 

When out-of-state friends ask me about "uniquely Utah" foods, I choose to tell them about some of the following:

Award-winning artisan cheeses, chocolate, and sausage (such as Beehive cheese, Amano chocolate, and Creminelli sausage, to name a few).
Green River melons.
Sanpete County turkey.
Cache Valley cheese and berries.
Box Elder County's Fruitway and Peach Days.
Bear Lake raspberries.
Onion production, which ranks 10th highest in the nation.
Southern Utah's pomegranates and pecans in the local "Dixie Salad."
Dutch oven cooking, a tribute to pioneers and early settlers who used them to cook everything from bread to buffalo stew.
Large families and the spirit of self-reliance and thrift. Home cooking and canning and backyard gardens never really went out of style.
Food storage. Where else would you find basements stacked with 5-gallon buckets of wheat, or where people share recipes for using powdered milk? (Not that I'm suggesting that a Senator serve wheat and powdered milk at some legislative function!)
The huge Hispanic influence, with the family-run Red Iguana and lots of other Mexican eateries and tacquerias.
Italian settlers from the late 1800s, and markets such as Granato's, which helped restaurants and home cooks get good olive oil, Parmesan, pasta, etc.
The Greek immigrants in the early 1900s, giving us the annual Greek Festival and longtime restaurants like Lamb's, Crown Burgers and The Mandarin.
The Japanese-Americans who were interned at Topaz during World War II. Many stayed in Utah and started farms and restaurants.
The Pacific Islander and Asian population in West Valley City.
The ski resorts in Park City/Sundance that helped develop a sophisticated dining scene.
The Navajo taco (also known as Indian tacos) served on "fry bread."
The first Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise.
The thousands of LDS missionaries who go to all areas of the globe and come home with a love of the culture and cuisine. They seek out — or even open — restaurants to serve these dishes.
Can you think of more uniquely Utah foods? 

A No-Cook Thanksgiving

Too busy to cook? There are a lot of places that offer Thanksgiving feasts-to-go. 

As one of the first restaurant chains to offer a complete holiday feast to enjoy at home, Marie Callender’s meals start at just $99.99. It includes an oven roasted turkey breast or ham with seven side dishes and a whole pie.

If you've got everything else covered but the pies, you can order them a la carte at Marie Callender's as well.

No time to clean house, set tables and do dishes? Well, Marie Callender’s also offers a dine-in Thanksgiving dinner that includes soup or salad,  turkey or ham with all of the classic holiday sides, and a slice of pie.  Adults can dine for $19.99; children are $8.99. Prices and participation may vary by location, and reservations are recommended.

Additional information is online at

Available through Jan.1, Mimi Cafe's Holiday Feast To-Go serves six to eight guests for  $79.99. The heat-and-serve meal features a roasted turkey, cornbread stuffing, mashed potatoes, whipped sweet potatoes, fresh steamed vegetables, cranberry relish, carrot raisin nut bread, and a whole pumpkin pie.  Mimi's also offers a la cart side dishes as well. 

Mimi's also offers a dine-in Thanksgiving Day dinner for $14.99 for adults and $6.99 for children under 12.  It includes Start with a choice of soup or salad, turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, steamed vegetables, cranberry relish, bread basket, pumpkin pie or bread pudding. Reservations are recommended. 


Sunday, November 6, 2011

BABY CAKES: Boy or Girl?

My daughter-in-law Stephanie had an ultrasound on Friday and the doctor was 95 percent sure of the baby's sex.

Without looking at the results, Steph gave the envelope with the ultrasound to a good friend, who baked a cake and frosted it with the appropriate color inside.  

As friends and family gathered around, Jess cut open the cake, and found......   

PINK frosting! Yes, it's a baby girl due in April.

Anthony wanted a little brother; Jayden wanted a little sister (and said that Jesus told her it was going to be a girl).

Grandma Val is happy either way. I've already crocheted one pink blanket and one blue blanket, just hedging my bets!

A New Twist On Funeral Potatoes

I got this email from Bakin' Bill Johnson, a Dutch oven cooking expert who lives in Layton, Utah:

"I enjoyed your article on Funeral Potatoes.
I've been using a recipe I got from Bryan Wooley on KUVT-2. The ingredients that really make it a favorite of everyone is the ranch dressing, yogurt and tomato basil potato chips. I have prepared it for many groups and they say it's the best they've ever had."
— Bakin' Bill

So here's the recipe- more funeral potatoes that are "to die for."

32 ounce bag shredded hash brown potatoes (frozen)
1 10 oz can cream of chicken soup
1 10 oz can cheddar cheese soup
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup ranch dressing
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 medium onion, diced
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 cup crushed tomato and basil potato chips
salt and pepper to taste
Spray a 12-inch Dutch oven with vegetable spray and set aside.
In a large bowl combine the cream of chicken soup, cheddar cheese soup, sour cream, ranch dressing, yogurt, onion, and cheddar cheese. Mix the ingredients together.
Fold in the frozen hash brown potatoes carefully. Spread the potato mixture into the prepared Dutch oven.
Sprinkle the top with the crushed tomato and basil potato chips. If you can’t find the chips in the recipe, be creative and use another flavor.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes or until the mixture is golden brown on top and bubbling.
Cool slightly and serve!