Taste of Home Cooking School creates buzz

Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Taste of Home Culinary Specialist Jamie Dunn gets a little help from a "Chexpert" named Madison, of Lee's Summit, Mo., to make Buffalo Chex Mix during Tuesday evening's Taste of Home Cooking School at the Danny and Willa Ellis Fine Arts Center. (Michael Pommier/Tribune)

Spurring the crowd to kick things off with a shout of "Let's get cooking," culinary specialist Jamie Dunn chipped, pureed, blended, snipped -- and even microwaved -- her way through nine recipes during Tuesday evening's Taste of Home Cooking School.

More than 400 people attended the event, held at the Danny and Willa Ellis Family Fine Arts Center on the Fort Scott Community College campus. It was presented by the Fort Scott Area Chamber of Commerce and The Fort Scott Tribune. It also featured many local vendors and exhibitors whose merchandise was available for sale in the lobby.

Emcee was Tina Rockhold, regional marketing & communication specialist media relations-Mercy Central Communities. Cooking assistants were Susan Lemmon, Angela Mix, Angie Trim and Amanda Gilmore. Ticket proceeds go to the chamber of commerce.

With the aid of a projection screen, Dunn showed audience members how to make upside-down banana pecan French Toast, gingered carrot soup, bacon-cheddar-chive scones, Buffalo Chex Mix, cornbread stuffed turkey breast, sausage stuffed red bell peppers, cookie dough truffles, apricot beef stir fry and French cranberry apple pie.

Interspersed were trivia questions such as how much did the largest gingerbread man weigh. The answer was 1,300 pounds. The 20-foot tall gingerbread man stood 20 feet and was made in Smithville, Texas.

Those attending could follow along with the recipes in copies of two Taste of Home magazines, supplied in goody bags each person received when they turned in their admission tickets.

Dunn said she always uses real butter in her recipes and typically buys the salted variety. "Because when you use real butter, it's a dairy product. It's consistent across the states," she said. Margarine, she added, may be inconsistent due to varying quantities of oil and water.

While making the upside-down banana pecan French toast, Dunn said French toast was developed in medieval times. With food being scarce, people couldn't throw things away. If they added moisture to bread, they could make it last. In more affluent society, people began adding eggs to the bread, which helped create the French toast we know today, she said.

Cinnamon, an ingredient in the French toast recipe, is a healthy spice. "It has lots of antioxidants," Dunn said. She added she also uses real vanilla, made from vanilla beans and alcohol.

Fake vanilla, she said, is just chemicals. "Add vanilla to anything with eggs and sugar in it and it enhances the flavor," Dunn said.

She also favored stock instead of broth. Stock is made of meat and vegetables simmered in water, while broth is flavoring with salt and pepper added. Stock has half as much salt in it as broth, she said. She also likes to use sea salt in her cooking because she likes its coarseness.

When using flour, Dunn recommends spooning it out of the bag onto a cutting mat or board, measuring it in a cup you would use to measure dry ingredients and using a knife to level it off. This way, she said, you use less flour.

Chives for the scones were cut with kitchen shears. She buys the kind that come apart so she can put them in the dishwasher. She also recommends putting parchment paper on baking sheets which allows for easier clean-up.

Chamber Interim Executive Director Lindsay Madison said this is the third year Taste of Home Cooking School has been held. A fundraiser for the chamber, it is held in Fort Scott one year and Nevada, Mo., the next. It attracts people from around Kansas and Missouri from as far away as Kansas City and Parsons.

Kelly Nelson of Fort Scott came to support the chamber and be among friends. "I think it's wonderful," Nelson said. "The goody bags are really nice. She's (Dunn) very entertaining."

Along with Taste of Home magazines, the bags also featured a container of cooking stock, a pen, a grocery list pad from the Fort Scott Tribune, refrigerator magnets from local merchants and national companies, tea and hand lotion samples, a newspaper insert about the school, a Gallo wine calendar, a brochure on The Nevada News commercial printing offerings, Post-Its, coupons and other items.

Everyone attending was offered a chance to fill out a form to be eligible for prize drawings.

Cindy Caviness of Nevada, Mo., has attended the cooking schools before and enjoys them.

"I love them and I bought four new people that have never been," she said, adding she was having "a blast."

Laura Krebs of Fort Scott came to her first cooking school at the invitation of her friend, fellow Fort Scott resident Marianne Avett.

"I think it's good. I've really enjoyed it," Krebs said.

Jerry Lyons, a farmer from Fulton, said he decided to come out Tuesday because he was curious. "It's good," he said, adding that he would probably try cooking something now.

Becky Tourtillott, chairwoman of the chamber's resource development committee, said the Taste of Home event takes about four months to plan.

Madison noted previous Taste of Home schools were held at Memorial Hall. This was the first time one was staged at the Danny and Willa Ellis Family Fine Arts Center. "It's a nice set up for vendors and attendees," she said. "We were able to do the VIP seating. We get a lot of support from local sponsors and stores."