Posts Tagged ‘ top chef ’

Family Favorites for Feeding America

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

Just like many others, my family’s holiday season is all about tradition. Though Thanksgiving is a couple days away, I already know we’ll be having my aunt’s garlic “smashed” potatoes and my gram’s pimento-stuffed celery (even though she’s the only one who likes it). We keep these recipes in the rotation because they’re near and dear to us. But this year, sharing them with others gives bigger benefits to those in need.

Go to Dish Up the Love to submit your favorite recipe and $1 will be donated to Feeding America, a nationwide network of food banks leading the fight against hunger. Each dollar provides nine meals for families who need them.

Partnering with the program is Top Chef alum and mom Antonia Lofaso, whose first book The Busy Mom’s Cookbook was recently released in paperback. A single parent, Antonia relishes her time at home with her daughter, Xea, making memories through food.

“For me the holidays are about making memories with family and friends around the kitchen table and giving back. Dish Up the Love celebrates these special holiday moments,” Antonia says. “I shared the recipe for my grandma’s lasagna because it’s served at all Lofaso family holidays. At Thanksgiving, we have turkey, but there’s always lasagna and tons of other Italian food.”

Grandma’s Lasagna

Serves: 6 to 8
Total time: 85 minutes

• ¼ cup olive oil
• ¼ cup chopped garlic (about 8 cloves)
• 3 (16-ounce) cans of peeled, whole plum tomatoes
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon sugar

• ¼ cup olive oil
• 1 ½ pounds ground turkey
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning, or 4 teaspoons fresh marjoram or oregano
• 1 (9-ounce) package of no-boil, oven-ready lasagna noodles
• Sauce (from above)
• ½ cup shredded or grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
• 2 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese
• 4 cups shredded whole-milk, mozzarella cheese
• 3 Roma tomatoes, sliced into 6 to 8 slices each
• 12 medium to large fresh basil leaves


1. For the sauce, head the olive oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped garlic and just as it starts to brown around the edges, throw in the canned tomatoes. You don’t want the garlic to burn, so have the cans open and ready to go beforehand.

2. Add the salt and sugar and whisk it all together. Let the sauce simmer on medium-low for 40 minutes while you prep the other ingredients. If any foam rises to the top of the sauce, skim it off. That’s the acid from the tomatoes, and your sauce will taste better without it. Using a hand blender or counter top blender, blend on medium until smooth.

3. Preheat oven to 375 F. In a 10-inch sauté pan heat the olive oil on medium-high. Add the ground turkey and the salt. Cook the turkey for about 5 minutes, until it’s browned throughout. Just as it’s finishing the cooking process, stir in the Italian seasoning. Drain any excess fat or liquid from the pan.

4. Cover the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with 3 sheets of pasta. Ladle 1 cup of sauce over the noodles. You don’t want the sauce to soak through, so you don’t need to overdo it. Layer on half of the meat, followed by half of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, and half of the ricotta cheese. Sprinkle on one-third of the mozzarella and arrange one-third of the fresh tomatoes on top of it. Top with one-third of the basil.

5. Repeat the process for the next layer: 3 sheets of pasta, a cup of sauce, the rest of the meat, the rest of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, the remaining ricotta, a third of the mozzarella, a third of the fresh tomatoes, and another third of the basil. The last layer is your presentation layer, so make it pretty. Add three more sheets of pasta.

6. Top the noodles with the last of the sauce, mozzarella, fresh tomatoes and basil. Bake uncovered for 40 minutes, rotating halfway through. The top should be a crispy golden brown when the lasagna is done, and the pasta sauce around the sides of the dish should be thick, not runny. Let the lasagna stand for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. If you cut into it while it is still piping hot, it will fall apart.


For more information and to share your favorite family recipe, visit After submitting a recipe, you’ll be entered for weekly sweepstakes to win Pyrex, Baker’s Secret, and CorningWare products.

Get more kid-friendly recipes from Antonia Lofaso.

Recipe and image reprinted from The Busy Mom’s Cookbook with permission from Avery, an imprint of Penguin Group.

Image of Antonia and Xea by Alex Martinez.

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Getting Toddlers to Eat: An Interview with Padma Lakshmi

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

If you’re a fan of Top Chef, you already know Padma Lakshmi as the host of the cooking competition show, alongside head judges Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons.  The adventurous eater and former model also because a mom last year when she gave birth to a daughter, Krishna Thea.  Recently, Lakshmi partnered with Huggies and Baby Loves Disco to launch the new Huggies Little Movers slip-on diapers, disposable diapers designed to help parents reduce changing time.  We chatted with Lakshimi over the phone to get tips on how to encourage picky toddlers to eat and what parenting advice she would give other moms and dads.


As an actress, a Top Chef judge, a cookbook writer, and a jewelry designer, you are a very busy mom!  How do you balance your work schedule with mommy time?
It’s very, very hard. No two days are alike. Each day I just try to figure out what is the most important thing on my list and I prioritize that way.

Besides Huggies slip-on diapers, are there any other products that have made your life easier as a parent?  Any tried-and-true mommy time-savers?
The Huggies Little Movers slip-ons are a real time-saver because now that my baby is getting more active and squirmy, it’s really hard to keep her still. You can change the diaper while the baby is standing up. They’re just as absorbent, they have Velcro, and they come sealed so you can slip them up like underwear. I live in New York City and most of the restaurants don’t have changing tables, and you’re always doing some kind of balancing act.  If you have an on-the-go lifestyle, this is a great diaper because it shaves a couple of minutes off each diaper change.

You’re an adventurous eater.  Now that Krishna is a toddler, has she become a picky eater? 
I’m very lucky that she’s not a picky eater. There are things that she doesn’t like, but she’ll try things once.  I give her two or three healthy choices. You have to teach children about good nutrition and eating habits, about adaptability and being able to get along in any situation. Trying to get them to eat healthy regular food is the best way to go so it’s not such a shock when they transfer their diet from baby food to normal food.

What are your tips for introducing new or more adventurous foods to your toddler? 
The biggest tip any pediatrician will teach you, is to try out one new food at a time for two to three days and then introduce a new food after that. This also helps you makes sure your child isn’t allergic to things. At first I was abandoning a particular fruit or vegetable after one time because I thought, ‘Okay, she doesn’t like it.’ But babies don’t know whether they really like something or not; it depends on their mood and on what stage they are in. You want to try again a couple weeks later or try two, three days in a row. Because of the unfamiliarity of a certain food, children will reject it, but they will often try something by the third or fourth time.

What are your strategies for preparing nutritious, well-balanced meals for your toddler? Do you have any easy, go-to recipes?
You make a little stew or a lentil soup and you put in a protein, a few vegetables, and a starch, like a little broken pasta or rice or noodles or potatoes, and then you finish off with fruit of some kind. The hardest job is washing and chopping all the vegetables, but you can do that ahead of time. I do a version of this in my own home a lot. It’s a balanced meal.

What was the best and worst parenting advice you have received?
The best parenting advice I received was to do what was best for my family and my child because no two families are the same and no two children are the same. And to do what is appropriate at that given moment, based on the circumstances. The worst advice I’ve been given is to just let your baby cry.

What parenting advice would you give to other parents?
I would give the advice to make the decisions that are right for your family. And seek the counsel of people in your family that you trust because there is a common value system or a shared set of ideals.

Follow Padma Lakshmi on Twitter (@padmalakshmi).

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An Evening with Scharffen Berger Chocolate and Pastry Chefs Johnny Iuzzini and Elizabeth Falkner

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

So what do you do when handed an irresistible invitation that reads, Scharffen Berger® Chocolate Maker Invites You to an Evening of Elevated Desserts with Acclaimed Pastry Chefs Elizabeth Falkner and Johnny Iuzzini?  If you love chocolate and eat dessert first, you say “Yes, please!” and head to the event with the resident Food Editor (the lovely Erica Clark) to watch the chefs give new twists to classic sweets using Scharffen Berger® chocolate.

Foodies and fans of “Top Chef: Just Desserts” will recognize Johnny Iuzzini as one of the head judges (alongside Gail Simmons) and Elizabeth Falkner as one of the guest judges from season one.  Iuzzini cut his teeth at Payard and is now the Executive Pastry Chef at Jean Georges restaurant in New York City while Falkner will soon be appearing on “The Next Iron Chef” and is the brainchild behind Orson restaurant and Citizen Cake bakery/ice cream parlor in San Francisco, CA.

In a room mostly full of women (yes, we do love our chocolate), Iuzzini started his demonstration of creating “Chocolate Pudding with Passion Fruit Gelée, Whipped Chocolate Crème Fraîche, and Cacao Nibs,” which was inspired by Jell-O Pudding Face ads, while Falkner began her demonstration of “Chocolate Gelato Sundae,” which was inspired by her love for ice cream. In order to make the ice cream solidify faster, Falkner used liquid nitrogen to freeze the milk-sugar mixture, which gave the demo a science-lab feel. (Both recipes are featured after the jump below.)

The audience was then divided into two groups to learn how to make each dessert (while wearing chefs hats and aprons).  Ending up in Iuzzini’s group, I mixed dry ingredients (those are my hands, on the right, and me with Iuzzini, below) and watched as unsweetened natural cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate became a trifle with layers of passion fruit gelée, devil’s food cake (that incorporated mayonnaise), chocolate crumble, crème fraîche, pudding, and for garnish: passion fruit seeds and freeze-dried raspberries. 

Afterwards, we were given a taste of the deeply delicious desserts — the chocolate pudding was a combination of sweet/sour and smooth/crunchy while the gelato sundae (garnished with chocolate cake bits, cocao nibs, and marshmallow cream) was a combination of sweet/bitter and crunchy/chewy.

Moms (and dads) all need a little “me” time, so if you’re a parent who loves chocolate, baking, and creating unusual spins on traditional desserts, consider making these two desserts as a treat for the family (the gelato sundae is more child-friendly, though you won’t need a nitrogen tank at home to make it!).  Or enter the “Elevate a Classic Dessert with Scharffen Berger® Chocolate Contest” for a chance to win a grand prize of $10,000.  The contest period is between October 1, 2011 – January 2, 2012.


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