When entertaining friends in the summer, think easy and breezy. Easy to make dishes that won’t leave you sweltering in a hot kitchen all day long and breezy, casual finger foods that match the lightness of summer living. Try these family-friendly dishes when entertaining a crowd on a summer afternoon or eve. Outdoor dining adds a nice touch to summer meals.

Appetizer: Homemade Hot Pretzels and Cheese

You can create pretzels from any basic yeast dough, so turn to your favorite pizza recipe and get started. After the dough has risen for one hour, roll it into a long tube. Now cut small 2-inch bits off to make pretzel bite, cut and brain longer 6-inch pieces for pretzel twists or shape into traditional pretzels. This dish is family-friendly and fun, and you can always take a shortcut by using purchased plain or whole wheat pizza dough. For the cheese sauce, serve a cheddar cheese dip or a nacho dip.

Main Meal: Cheese Stuffed Grilled Peppers with Grilled Kebabs and Corn Salad

To make the peppers, mix equal parts ricotta and cream cheese and add 1/2-part parmesan cheese. Remove the pepper stem and scrape the inside to remove the seeds. Fill the pepper with cheese mixture using a knife. Run with olive oil and grill for 7-8 minutes or until charred. Experiment with different types of peppers, such as Italian, bell or poblano.

When summer tomatoes and corn are at their best, make a simple salad. If the corn is quite fresh, use it raw; otherwise shuck the ears and blanch for 4 minutes. Remove the corn kernels from their cob. Slice cherry tomatoes in half, dice one-half a red onion and add fresh basil on top.

For kebabs, use your preferred meat and marinade for several hours or overnight in a simple lemon and oil dressing or another simple marinade. Slide the meat onto wooden or metal skewers and grill until cooked through. Try shrimp with lemon and oil, Asian-style beef or garlic-rosemary chicken.

Dessert: Watermelon Popsicles

This no-fuss dessert simply spells summer. De-seed and cut 2-1/2 cups of watermelon. Puree in a blender. If you wish, add tequila for a watermelon margarita popsicle or add lime or mint for a child-friendly twist on the watermelon pop. Pour the pureed watermelon into popsicle molds and freeze. If you don’t have a popsicle mold, use paper juice cups to hold the popsicle base and insert popsicle sticks when the liquid is partially frozen. To serve, run the popsicle mold under warm water and gentle slide out the pop.

For beverages, iced tea and lemonade both quench the thirst and are simple to make at home. If you prefer something sugar-free, add some fresh herbs or veggies to water to create a lightly flavored water. Try mint and cucumber or lemon balm and fresh lemon, for example. If you’re serving adults only, upgrade to a crisp white wine or rose, or try light summer ale or a shandy (half beer-half lemonade). With no-fuss, crowd-pleasing dishes like these; you just may become the preferred hostess.

All of these dishes are easy to scale up when you’re throwing large parties and are adaptable to allergens and personal preference. What are your go-to summer dishes for entertaining?

Celebrity chefs of today have inspired many young people to consider a career in culinary arts.  Even the not-so-young working professionals have been observed to be showing incredible interest in the field.  This may be due to many reasons but it is quite clear that immense financial possibilities and popularity form the core of this renewed interest in cooking careers.

Steps in Training to Become a Celebrity Chef

1. Get the Required Education

Enrolling in a Culinary Arts Program provides advantages in terms of the basic and “academic” learning that may be needed by chefs.  Available programs range from certificate courses to master’s degrees.  The appropriate program would depend on the skills and education already acquired prior to the program.

2.  Get the Experience

Graduates of cooking schools do not automatically become good cooks or chefs.  Experience is probably the single most important factor in determining whether a chef is destined for greatness or not.  There are actually several famous chefs who have gone on to stardom on the strength of their extensive experience rather than by virtue of academic honors.

3.  Identify the Career Path Desired

Celebrity chefs have different fortes in which they excel in.  It is best for an aspiring celebrity chef to identify which path he desires and work on that choice vigorously.  This may involve internships and apprenticeships under a preferred celebrity chef, and further formal and specialized training.

4.  Create an Identity

No chef can ever be a celebrity if he is not able to set himself apart from the rest.  This may be done by operating a restaurant of his own while seeking to develop a unique brand that will identify him.  Nowadays, joining competitions on TV appear to be the most commonly practiced route to stardom.  Even non-winners eventually find themselves recipients of offers if they managed to get the attention of producers.

5. Never Stop Learning

One of the secrets of celebrity chefs is that they never stop at their laurels.  They continue to learn and evolve so that they remain current with the times while maintaining their established image.  Celebrity status comes with work and responsibility.

An aspiring celebrity chef can either put his career on the hands of fate or he can do what most celebrity chefs have done which is to train hard and work hard.

About the Guest Blogger:

Gina is a recruitment officer who regularly handles applications on jobs for chefs.

Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain, the infamous traveling chef now on almost every lifestyle channel in existence- had quite a story to tell in one of his first bestselling books: “Kitchen Confidential“. Finally, after many trial and tribulations, he had found his sous-chef extraordinaire, Steven Tempel, for the Supper Club in New York, where Bourdain had just been made head chef. To say that Steven was eccentric was, according to Bourdain, putting it mildly…

Nevertheless, Bourdain reveals in the very frank and no nonsense book (as in how it really goes down in the restaurant business), Steven was somewhat of a genius. It turns out that Bourdain had recruited Steven from Casa Nostra Restaurant, in Northern California, where he had been working in the kitchen with “idiot savant” and “baking geniusAdam Real-Last-Name-Unknown!!

Kitchen Confidential is an excellent read and here at Celebrity Chefs we highly recommend it. As it turns out, the owner of Casa Nostra Restaurant (which was known for serving the best italian cuisine in town)- Joey Velardi, has recently opened up a branch in Manila, Philippines- where it is receiving rave reviews from the locals and in fact Bourdain recently visited for his show “No Reservations“.

Let’s hope Bourdain doesn’t steal the chef again ;)

Chef John Ash

A lot of cooks would agree that the use of wine in some meals have added a certain spice in making them sought after. Such can be attributed towards the contributions of Chef John Ash, an internationally recognized chef, educator and author. His continued work and application of wine towards cuisine and his evident mastery for winery has been his obvious trademark that has brought him towards world wide prominence.

John is known to hold various classes and teaches culinary schools and institutions with regards to the tricks of the proper use of wine for culinary meals. Majority of his known reliability has been attributed towards the wine industry and such has been something that has continued to push him up towards fame and fortune.

He has published two books, namely American Game Cooking in 1991 and From the Earth to the Table: John Ash’s Wine Country Cuisine in 1996. The latter book was awarded the Julia Child Award for Best Cookbook in 1996 by the International Association of Culinary Professionals.

Ina Garten

Ina Garten

Ina is just so cuddly and earthy, yet at the same time with a nose for timeless style, that I thought it would be a good idea to post some of her favourite things, as inspiration.

Favorite cookbooks?

“Some of the other books I use most are Nantucket Open House Cookbook by Sarah Leah Chase, The Loaves and Fishes Cookbook by Anna Pump, Bistro Cooking by Patricia Wells, and Cucina Simpatica by George Germon and Johanne Killeen.”

Favorite glassware?

“Barney’s in New York City carried my stemware for years, but unfortunately, they’ve now discontinued it. But, thanks to one of our readers, we’ve found another source. The name of the glassware is Cristallerie La Rochere, the Amite pattern and the website to order it from is lafermedelamer.com. My glasses are the white and the red wine stemware. They also carry the large water glass and champagne glasses to match.”

Favorite pots and pans?

“I love All Clad pots. I would recommend you start with small and medium saucepans and 8-inch and 12-inch saut� pans. I don’t even bother with non-stick because if you soak the pans after you use them, they will clean beautifully. I know they’re expensive pots, but you can collect them one at a time. They’ll last a lifetime and you’ll enjoy using them. For Dutch ovens, I prefer Le Creuset. These are all available at Williams-Sonoma, Sur La Table, and Crate & Barrel stores nationally. “

Favorite ice cream maker?

“I use a Krups ice cream maker which I bought at Williams-Sonoma many years ago.”

Favorite places to stay in East Hampton?

“My favorite places are the Baker House 631-324-4081 and the Pink House 631-324-3400 in East Hampton, which are both lovely bed and breakfast inns, and the Bridgehampton Inn 631-537-3660 in Bridgehampton. There are no big hotels but these are lovely places to stay.”

Favorite restaurants in East Hampton?
“Three of the restaurants I like most in East Hampton are Nick & Toni’s, The pub at 1770 house, and the Palm Restaurant.”

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Good vegetarian recipes aren’t that easy to come by, but this recipe by Ainsley Harriott combines fantastic flavours with ease and best of all, speed. I’m a fan of couscous and a good meatless recipes, so I highly recommend this dish, so aptly named.

Serve it on its own as a good vegetarian meal, or throw in some of Ainsley’s lamb cutlets, to please the meat eaters in your life. This recipe uses one of Ainsley’s products, the Premium Couscous, which offers superb flavour with versatility. If you can’t get it where you live, any good quality couscous will do fine.

Mixed Vegetable Couscous

Serves 2-3

INGREDIENTS

* 15g butter
* 150g (6oz) favourite mixed vegetables, chopped (eg peppers, courgettes, green beans, peas, carrots, sweetcorn)
* a vegetable stock cube
* 175ml (1 small teacup boiling water)
* 1 x 125g sachet Ainsley Harriott Premium Cous Cous
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper

METHOD

* Melt the butter in a medium sized saucepan then add the chopped vegetables, saute for 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

* Dissolve the stock cube in the boiling water.

* Add Cous Cous to the vegetables then add vegetable stock. Bring to the boil; remove from heat, cover and leave to stand for 5 – 7 minutes until the liquid has been absorbed.

* Fluff with a fork; if required piping hot, re-heat over a low heat for 1-2 minutes, separating the grains with a fork.

* Season to taste before serving.

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Forget the gingerbread house. Your holiday dessert should be simple to prepare, so you can spend more time with your family (that is what Christmas is about, right?). Here’s a quick chocoalte mousse recipe from Nigella Lawson’s cookbook, Nigella Express: 130 Recipes for Good Food, Fast.

Nigella says that most mousses need to be made the day before, to allow the egg yolk to set. Here’s her “instant” alternative. She does away with eggs, which not only saves time but allows you to safely feed it to young children.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) soft butter
9 oz best-quality semisweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
1/4 cup hot water from a recently boiled kettle
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Pour the marshmallows, butter, chocolate, and water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.
2. Melt over gentle heat, stirring occassionally. Remove from heat and let cool.
3 Whip the cream with the vanilla until it’s got a thick consistency. Fold it into the cooled chocolate mixture.
4. Pour into individual dishes or cups and chill until ready to serve.

Watch Nigella’s regular TV show, Nigella Express on the BBC Channel for more recipes and tips.

It goes without saying that the turkey is the “piece de resistance” of the Thanksgiving meal, the part of the meal that is most likely to succeed or fail. Therefore, it is imperative to have a fail-proof recipe which not only looks perfect (or close to it), but tastes fabulous as well.

But as with all things in life, nothing, not even the best recipe can guarantee an award-winning roast turkey, as components like your oven and indeed, the bird itself, matters greatly. But by all means, give this one a go and keep on trying until you find the best recipe that works for you.
First in line for what could be the “Best Turkey Recipes Ever” is Alton Brown‘s, which is a rather scientific method of what could be a foolproof way of making a good turkey roast.

1 (14 to 16 pound) frozen young turkey
For the brine:
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1/2 tablespoon allspice berries
1/2 tablespoon candied ginger
1 gallon iced water
For the aromatics:
1 red apple, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water
4 sprigs rosemary
6 leaves sage
Canola oil

Combine all brine ingredients, except ice water, in a stockpot, and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve solids, then remove from heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.

Early on the day of cooking, (or late the night before) combine the brine and ice water in a clean 5-gallon bucket. Place thawed turkey breast side down in brine, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area (like a basement) for 6 hours. Turn turkey over once, half way through brining.

A few minutes before roasting, heat oven to 500 degrees. Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes.

Remove bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard brine.

Place bird on roasting rack inside wide, low pan and pat dry with paper towels. Add steeped aromatics to cavity along with rosemary and sage. Tuck back wings and coat whole bird liberally with canola (or other neutral) oil.

Roast on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F. for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cover breast with double layer of aluminum foil, insert probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and return to oven, reducing temperature to 350 degrees F. Set thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let turkey rest, loosely covered for 15 minutes before carving.

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In this day and age, many of us do not know how to cook. Quite a few are afraid to do so because they don’t have any experience or background in it. Even if we buy a cookbook or watch these great chefs on TV, we just don’t seem to get the hang of it.

This is where Rachael Ray came in. She is not a formally trained chef. She has taken no cooking courses. She just loves food and isn’t afraid to try something new in the kitchen. Add to it her perky personality, or as she puts it goofy personality, and she had people willing to give cooking a chance.

Rachael learned to cook the old fashioned way, from watching her mom cook. Her family owned a restaurant in Cape Cod. Later her mom managed restaurants in upstate New York. At home, she enjoyed the flavors of Italy and Louisiana.

Rachael began her career at the Candy Counter in Macy’s New York. She then became the manager of the fresh foods department. After Macy’s she helped open the gourmet market place Agata and Valentina, serving as both buyer and manager.

It wasn’t unitl she moved upstate that Rachel’s destiny began to shape up. She was recruited by Cowan and Label to be their food buyer. While she was there, Rachael decided to hold some cooking classes as a way to increase the christmas sales. Her 30 Minute Meal classes became so popular they caught the attention of the media.

An Albany TV station then asked her to do a weekly 30 minute meal segment as part of the evening news. The show was nominated for 2 regional Emmy awards and Rachael’s first cookbook, a companion to the show, was released selling 10,000 copies.

Now, she hosts 4 shows on the food network: 30 Minute Meals, $40 a Day, Inside Dish and Rachael Ray’s Tasty Travels. She has also signed a contract with Oprah Winfrey and King World Productions to launch her own syndicated talk show, Rachael Ray, beginning September 18, 2006.

She has authored several cookbooks following her 30 minute meal concept and has her own magazine, Everyday with Rachael Ray. She has also developed her own line of cookware and cutlery.

Here’s one more yummy recipe worth trying out, fresh from one of last week’s episodes of Ready Steady Cook, by one of the show’s regular chefs, James Martin.

Perfect for a quick weekday supper and easy enough to whip up when unexpected guests arrive, this is one dish that will please the entire family (just omit the salsa for the little ones and serve it as in the photo above, with greens and pasta).

Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Ingredients

1 chicken breast
30g/1oz Emmental cheese, grated
sprig fresh thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tbsp olive oil

For the basil oil
1 tbsp olive oil
small bunch fresh basil leaves

For the salsa
avocado, peeled and stone removed
red chilli, seeds removed, finely chopped
1 lime, juice only

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
2. Using a sharp knife, cut a pocket lengthways into the thickest part of the breast. Stuff the pocket with the cheese and fresh thyme and season the breast with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
2. Heat the olive oil in an ovenproof frying pan over a medium heat and add the crushed garlic. Fry for one minute then add the chicken breast and fry until golden-brown. Turn the breast over and transfer to the oven to roast for 10-12 minutes, or until cooked through.
3. For the basil oil, place the olive oil and fresh basil leaves into a food processor and blend until smooth.
4. For the salsa, finely chop the avocado into small cubes and place into a bowl. Sprinkle over the chopped chilli and squeeze over the lime juice.
5. To serve, place the chicken onto a warmed plate. Add a spoonful of the salsa and drizzle the fresh basil oil around the edge of the plate.