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6 Ways to Play with Your Food, from Mac and Cheese Pops to S’mores Bars

It’s time to let loose in the kitchen. Instead of sticking to strict recipes and living by the cookbook, take a day to play with your food. No, we’re not talking about having a food fight It Takes Two style, but rather experimenting with fun shapes, sizes and topping bars for your next party.

Whether it’s making your mac and cheese into pops or assembling a taco-and-margarita bar for a Mexican fiesta, there are plenty of ways to get playful. Bonus: Once the prep work is done, your guests do all the work making their own creative concoctions.

Skewer Your Corn

Everything’s better on a stick, and sticks make corn on the cob easier (and less messy) to eat. Try Bobby Flay’s Grilled Corn Skewers with Chipotle-Lime Butter, or mix things up with an assortment of butters and toppings like Cotija and Parmesan cheese for a DIY corn on the cob bar.

Build a Better Taco Bar

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How to Have a Celeb-Worthy Memorial Day BBQ Bash

Even though there is still almost a month until summer hits, we’ll get a taste of it on Memorial Day during a day off filled with fun in the sun. Whether you’re gathering friends in your backyard, at the beach or on a campsite, make this holiday special with a memorable, flavor-packed party.

Instead of just throwing hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill and buying some macaroni salad, pump things up with barbecue ribs, charred vegetables and savory sides that everyone will be talking about all summer. To achieve this level of greatness, we turned to our favorite stars who know a thing or two about throwing a celebrity-worthy bash. Check out some tips and tricks from Tiffani Thiessen, Tia Mowry, Haylie Duff and more below, and get ready to fire up that grill.

Appetizer: Debi and Gabriele’s Grilled Apricots and Goat Cheese

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How Cooking Channel Chefs Get Kids to Eat Healthy

Kids. None of us would exist without them. Therefore, we hope the following impression isn’t too belittling (even if spot-on): “Wah. That food’s too brown. That food’s too green. Wah. That food’s too yellow. That food’s not yellow enough. I’m a kid. Wah.”

Fortunately, many of our chefs have kids of their own and have figured out ways to transmit their passion of food onto their offspring. We’ve compiled a few of their tenets here:

Last, but not least, new-as-of-this-week mom Haylie Duff (pictured) has several ways to disguise healthy foods as kid-approved treats — like pizza with secret veggies and apple cookies — and she’s sharing her recipes on The Real Girl’s Kitchen,  Saturday at 1pm ET.

More Healthy-Eating Tips

How to Have the Best Morning Ever

The first step to a great morning for Tia Mowry is sunrise yoga in a park by the beach. Not everyone can live in sunny Los Angeles, though, so you may have to skip to step two: her savory quinoa breakfast bowl.

This filling bowl is packed with fiber, protein and iron, so it’ll help you get energized for a busy day. It starts with Tia’s favorite grain, quinoa, cooked until tender and fluffy. She tops that with crispy baked kale; earthy and meaty Shitake mushrooms and a perfect fried egg (the trick is to cook is low and slow).

The result is as pretty as it is healthy.

To get more of Tia’s tips for the best morning ever, watch Tia Mowry at Home on Wednesday at 9pm ET.

Get the Recipe: Tia Mowry’s Quinoa Breakfast Bowl with Crispy Kale Chips

More Tia Mowry at Home

 

Work Party on a Budget: DIY Magnolia’s Cupcakes

Magnolia Bakery’s famous “Vanilla Vanilla” cupcake goes for $3.25 a pop, but with this DIY recipe we dug up in the Cooking Channel archives, you’ll spend only about 43 cents per cupcake. The low cost makes it perfect for a work party (or any party, for that matter), plus it’s simple, delicious and easy to tailor to your theme — should you choose to splurge on decorations. We tried this recipe for April’s Lab Week (Erika is a pathology resident at a nearby hospital), so we went with science-themed toppings (in case you were wondering about those strange-looking toppings above).

Below is a breakdown of the recipe steps, along with some tips we discovered through some admittedly rookie mistakes. We’re bakers in progress, so if you have any sage cupcake wisdom to share, please do so in the comments!

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Brunch on a Budget: Grilled Bourbon French Toast

Cost Breakdown

If you’re looking for an affordable brunch dish to feed your friends and family this spring, try Michael Symon’s Grilled French Toast. In this recipe he creates aluminum “ovens” to cook his fruit topping alongside French toast on the grill for a delicious smoky flavor. We tried it out for ourselves with a few tweaks (see below), and broke down the cost above. We served six, so the total came to about $4 per person (counting the addition of maple syrup and powdered sugar, which we strongly suggest!).

Tips:

– Use bananas instead of more expensive berries for your topping.

– Bourbon! (Add it to both the bananas and the custard before grilling.)

– Use whole-wheat bread and milk — instead of cream — for a healthier dish.

– Pay attention to your grill, because that toast will burn fast! An ideal char:

Mmmm Char

– But if you do burn your toast, simply cover it with lots of topping and powdered sugar, and your guests will never know:

Final Product

Also, we have to give a special thanks to our friends Bill and Justyna for hosting and letting us experiment on their grill!

7 Cute Farm Animals to Improve Your Week

On this week’s Extra Virgin (Wednesday at 9pm ET), Gabriele Corcos will restore the old chicken coop on his land and finally fulfill his dream of living on a farm. Debi’s more of a city girl at heart, but who can resist looking at these snuggly sweethearts? Plus, she gets to make a farm-inspired feast to celebrate. Scroll through the rest of the cuties after the jump and get more of your farm fix on a new Extra Virgin, Wednesday at 9pm ET.

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Watch the Rev Run’s Sunday Suppers’ Premiere Online

Rev Run has a mission to bring all his kids who have moved away from home back to the dinner table — and he’s using food as bait. On last night’s Season 2 premiere of Rev Run’s Sunday Suppers, Rev had been dreaming about his favorite bait: pizza. Naturally, he decided to bake up his first pie. In order to do it right, he spent time at his local pizzeria to pick up some tips. Watch the full episode after the jump (no cable provider required).

Continue Reading Watch the Rev Run’s Sunday Suppers’ Premiere Online

Why Cooking Channel’s Logo is Blue

Light It Up Blue for Autism

If you turn on Cooking Channel or Food Network today (or visit our Facebook and Twitter pages), you’ll notice our logos have turned blue. Today is World Autism Awareness Day, so we’re participating in a unique global initiative to help shine a light on the growing public health concern.

To find out more about autism, the Light It Up Blue campaign and easy ways you can participate, visit AutismSpeaks.org/LIUB.

How to Eat Like a Pizza Master

If you’ve watched Pizza Masters, you’ll agree that Fran Garcia and Sal Basille are Italian comfort food experts. They run Artichoke Pizza in New York which many claim to be the city’s best pizza (therefore, in turn, the world’s best pizza). They learned their craft the same way as many great Italian-American chefs, by generations and generations of nonna’s teaching them the way around a kitchen. They’ve taken this history (and great, funny stories) and turned them into quick and easy recipes in their new book (out today!) called Staten Italy: Nothin’ but the Best Italian-American Classics, from Our Block to Yours. You can expect authentic comforts that go way beyond pizza — like Eggs Pizziaola, Pork Cutlets with Hot Peppers and Vinegar, their famous Cauliflower Fritters and much more.

Get it here.

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