Cooking school adds the joy

WEIRTON – Laughs were on the menu as hundreds of Upper Ohio Valley residents attended the annual Taste of Home Cooking School Tuesday at the Serbian-American Cultural Center in Weirton.

Culinary Specialist Cheryl Cohen shared recipes, kitchen tips and plenty of laughs over the two-and-a-half hour show, hosted by The Weirton Daily Times and Herald-Star. Cohen prepared several seasonal dishes, utilizing readily available ingredients, including appetizers, soups, entrees and desserts.

Cohen demonstrated an easy technique for filling manicotti shells – by cutting them open, using a plastic bag as an impromptu pastry bag to fill them, then folding the cut ends over and placing the cut side on the bottom of the dish.

“Nobody will know but you,” she said.

She encouraged the audience to replace ground meat with Johnsonville sausages in their favorite dishes.

“It will really change some of the dishes you are making,” she said.

Ground meat also can be replaced with chopped and sauted mushrooms, reducing calories and fat and adding vegetables and moisture.

“If your family is ‘allergic’ to vegetables, this is a great way to get that extra serving of vegetables,” Cohen said. “It adds great flavor and vitamins.”

Cohen noted all casserole dishes should have an internal temperature of 165 degrees. She also spoke about the correct way to roast a chicken, noting the wings should be tucked behind the neck.

“You’re going to take the wings and put them behind the head – or what used to be its head,” she said. “It prevents the tips of the wings from burning.”

She also recommended tying the chicken’s legs close to the body, using silicon ties. so the legs cook at the same rate as the bird.

“If you don’t tie them, they just kind of flop open and get too dry,” she said. “And it looks better.”

While making a coffee cake, Cohen discussed making yeast breads, noting that yeast past its expiration date will not make bread rise, but yeast can be frozen for later use. She also recommended using a silicon pastry mat and using non-stick spray on plastic wrap before covering dough prior to rising.

“If your arms are tired, you’re pretty much done (kneading),” said Cohen.

She also tried a “new twist” on the recipe, twist every other piece of dough in the opposite direction.

“You’re watching me do something I’ve never done before,” she said.

Originally from Cleveland, Cohen developed her love of cooking at age 12 as she watched her mother and grandmothers in the kitchen. By the time she was a teenager, she was pitching in to help make dinner. She earned her bachelor of science degree in home economics education and extension from Ohio State University. She has worked as a cooking school manager and instructor for a supermarket. She is a certified food safety professional and food safety instructor under the ServSafe program.

Crowds began to line up outside the center before the doors opened, waiting to receive a gift bag filled with Taste of Home magazines, coupons and samples.

Dozens of prizes were distributed during the event, including items donated by national sponsors, local sponsors and those participating in the vendor show that immediately preceded the cooking school. Those attending also had the opportunity to purchase tickets for the grand-prize drawing of the winner’s choice of a either a gas grill or six-piece dining set. At the close of the show, each of the food items prepared – along with the dishes on which they were presented – were awarded as door prizes.

During the vendors show, a variety of products featuring everything from sweets to handbags to jewelry was available. The Tesla Lounge was open, offering a buffet meal to those in attendance. Kelli McCoy of LEX Multimedia was the mistress of ceremonies.

The show was sponsored in cooperation with Weirton Medical Center and Create-A-Room. M&M Hardware, Steubenville Wal-Mart and Frank and Jerry’s Furniture and Appliance also were show sponsors.

Each year, thousands of people from across the United States and Canada submit more than 40,000 recipes to Taste of Home, 3,000 of which are published. Every recipe published is evaluated and selected by the Taste of Home Test Kitchen, which ensures it can be prepared with affordable, everyday ingredients. Taste of Home content is available in print; online at TasteofHome.com; in books; via digital download on iPad, mobile apps and Kindle; and Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Obtain a subscription at www.TasteofHome.com or on a digital download device.

For information about the Taste of Home Cooking School, visit the website at www.TasteofHome.com/Cooking-Schools.

(Wallace-Minger can be contacted at swallace@pafocus.com)