The Great Indoors: The perfect party dip

We all know those moms and dads who go completely overboard with graduation open house party planning. When little Susie or Johnny graduates, they spare no expense to make sure her/his food is the best.

But in my experience the best foods at graduation open houses are often times the simplest. There’s no need to spend tons of money or hours in the kitchen making snack foods when something as easy as this taco dip is a crowd pleaser.

The recipe comes from my co-worker Josh Thomas and he says it’s always a winner when he serves it. Enjoy!

Taco Dip


1 can refried beans
1 jar of your favorite salsa
1 small container of sour cream
Guacamole (for best results, use actual guacamole and not guacamole dip)
1 tomato, cubed with seeds & membrane removed
Small can sliced black olives
4-5 sprigs of green onions chopped
1 bag of shredded cheddar cheese
Also needed
Serving tray (8-by-8-inches at least)
Knife & cutting board (for tomatoes and green onions)
Plastic bags
Mixing bowl
Tortilla chips (for dipping)


-In a mixing bowl, combine salsa and refried beans until evenly blended. Spread a layer of the bean/salsa in serving tray. Depending on the size of your serving tray, you may not use all of mixture.
-If guacamole comes in bag, slice off corner of bag and “pipe” guacamole evenly over bean/salsa mixture. If guacamole does not come in bag, place it into a plastic bag and cut off the corner to pipe it over the bean/salsa mixture.
-Place about half of the container of sour cream into plastic bag, cut off corner of bag and evenly pipe on top of guacamole. For an added kick, you can put a bit of taco seasoning into the sour cream.
-Cover sour cream in an even layer of shredded cheese.
-Spread tomato and green over shredded cheese.
-Cover in a thin layer of shredded cheese and top with black olives.
-Enjoy with tortilla chips; refrigerate leftovers.

The Lost Italian: Pasta Puttanesca

Tony Nasello shows us the perfect pasta dish to pump up those marathon runners with the carbs they need while being extremely delicious!

Pasta Puttanesca

Serves 4 to 6


-1 package linguini, cooked to al dente
-¼ cup olive oil
-½ small yellow onion, diced
-1 tablespoon minced garlic
-5 anchovy fillets
-½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
-½ cup white wine
-6 large ripe tomatoes, diced
-¼ cup kalamata olives
-2 tablespoons capers
-Salt and pepper to taste
-Optional: 12 to 18 jumbo shrimp (peeled & de-veined)


Bring a pot of water to boil and salt it generously (at least one tablespoon). Add pasta and cook according to directions on package. Prepare the sauce while the pasta is cooking.

In a large sauté pan, warm the olive oil over medium heat with the onion, garlic, anchovies and red pepper flakes (add shrimp now if using). Use a spoon or spatula to break the anchovies up into little bits. Cook until onions soften and become translucent, about four to five minutes. Do not let the garlic brown.

Add white wine, tomatoes, olives and capers and simmer over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes. During this time, drain the pasta and set aside until sauce is ready. Do not rinse with water.

If the sauce appears dry, add water, starting with a quarter cup. Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper if desired. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce, toss to coat and cook together for one more minute. Remove from heat and transfer to serving bowl. Garnish with freshly chopped basil and grated parmesan cheese.

The Great Indoors: Classes teach kids tasty, healthy cooking

Are your children stuck in a food rut? Are you living in a world filled with macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets and PB-and-J?

Many American moms and dads would answer yes. Many children don’t like variety when it comes to eating. They know what they like. As much as we parents try to introduce them to new foods, including healthier foods like fruits and vegetables, we know it doesn’t always work. We get turned up noses and grimaces.

But there is a key to getting your child to try new and healthier food, and it’s pretty simple. Let them help.

Child development experts say getting a child more invested in the food he or she eats leads to a higher likelihood that the child will at least try the food.

For example, take your child to the grocery store with you. Have her pick out the best vegetables and healthy snack options. Or have him help you make dinner.

Nutrition consultant and private personal trainer Danielle Irving is making that a little easier. Through her business, BodyHeartMind, she offers cooking classes for kids ages 6 to 14.

Her goal is to introduce as many new foods, procedures and tools as possible.

You’ll find the kids cooking with foods they might not normally eat, such as cabbage, turnips, quinoa, avocados, asparagus, edamame and more.

They’ll also learn kitchen skills like measuring, cutting, chopping, washing and using the oven. She also provides a nutrition lesson with each class and the children get to prepare the food themselves.

“Tasting is not required but definitely allowed!” she says.

Danielle invited “The Great Indoors” to her last class. We met an enthusiastic group of children ready to take on the task of making eggplant fries, a delicious, crispy substitute for regular fries. They looked like they were having a blast. And no one seemed to miss the mac and cheese.


Eggplant “fries”

1-2 eggplant, sliced into “French fry” shapes
2 eggs, beaten with a fork
1 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs), regular bread crumbs or crushed crisp rice cereal
1 cup ground flax seed
1 cup parmesan cheese

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
-Gently mix together bread crumbs, flax and cheese.
-Dip the fry pieces, several at a time, in the egg, tap off to remove excess.
-Roll generously in the crumb mixture
-Place on a parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Bake for 20 minutes.

For more information or a class schedule go to

The Lost Italian: Walleye cakes for open fishing

Tony Nasello shows us a fun and easy way to make and eat all the walleye you catch, or maybe still have stored from last summer! Paired with the roasted red pepper aioli shown last week, it’s the perfect summer treat.

Walleye Cakes

Makes 4 to 6 servings (approximately 10 entrée-sized cakes or 15 to 16 appetizers/hors d’oeuvres)


-1 pound walleye fillets
-1/4 cup real mayonnaise (if using a fresh -Basic Aioli, omit the garlic powder below)
-2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
-3 dashes Tabasco
-4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
-1 whole egg
-1/3 cup diced red pepper
-1/3 cup diced red onion
-Juice of half a lemon
-1 teaspoon granulated garlic or ½ teaspoon garlic powder
-1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
-1/2 to 1 cup Japanese-style (panko) breadcrumbs
-Vegetable oil for frying


Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and bake the walleye fillets whole in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Cool in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before using. When cool, use your hands to break the walleye up into small 1/2 inch-pieces, or use a knife to rough chop.

Use a whisk to mix all ingredients together except the walleye and breadcrumbs. Add the walleye and a half cup of breadcrumbs. Use a rubber spatula to lightly toss all ingredients until well combined.

Test the mixture by squeezing some in your hand: if it crumbles, the mixture is too dry; add more mayonnaise or aioli, one teaspoon at a time. If liquid leaks out, it is too moist; add more breadcrumbs. The mixture is ready when it can hold the form of a cake.

Form the mixture into desired-sized cakes. Heat 3/4 cup of oil in a 10-inch pan over medium-high heat. Test for readiness by tossing in a few breadcrumbs. If they sizzle, the oil is ready.

Place the walleye cakes in the pan, being careful to leave a little space between each cake. Sauté golden brown, about two to three minutes each side. Serve immediately with Tuscan Bean Salad and Roasted Red Pepper Aioli.

What SheSays: How to ‘unplug’

Technology has made “cocooning,” or staying home instead of going out for entertainment, more prevalent in our society. At the same time, technology has made leaving the office behind more difficult. On this week’s episode of “What SheSays,” The Forum’s Heidi Shaffer, Tracy Briggs and Robin Huebner talk about how to unplug.

The Great Indoors: Beyond tacos for Cinco de Mayo

Tim Rosendahl has been awfully busy holding classes at Casey Steele’s Square One Rental Kitchens.

So when we asked the two of them to help us out by creating an extra special Cinco de Mayo meal for “The Great Indoors,” we were thrilled that they could squeeze us in.

I, for one, was tired of the Mexican food in my repertoire. I’ve gotten pretty complacent when my family craves food from south of the border. It’s usually tacos or enchiladas and maybe a queso dip.

But this Shrimp and Tomatillo-Stuffed Chile Relleno with Black Garlic Aioli was something pretty spectacular.

With a Mexican meal this out of the ordinary, a regular margarita didn’t seem to fit the bill. Instead, Rosendahl suggests a mango margarita. The light and fruity taste is a nice balance for the rich chile relleno. Enjoy!

Shrimp and Tomatillo Stuffed Chile Relleno with Black Garlic Aioli

4 whole fresh poblano or serrano peppers
Fresh ground pepper
3 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
2 tomatillos, paper skin peeled off and tomatillo small diced
4 large eggs, separated
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 large shrimp, peeled, deveined and split lengthwise


-Char peppers until black on all sides over an open flame. Put under running water and peel off blackened portion.
-Split pepper on one side and remove seeds and core very carefully
-Stuff with cheese, sautéed tomatillos and shrimp. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate.
-Mix egg whites until stiff. Mix egg yolks until pale yellow. Fold yolks into whites and reserve for peppers.
-Dredge peppers with flour and then cover in egg mixture.
-Pan-fry in oil until golden brown on both sides. Bake at 300 until cheese is melted
-Serve with black garlic aioli – mayonnaise mixed with pureed black garlic. If black garlic is not available, use roasted garlic.

Garnish ideas

-Cilantro, sour cream, salsa verde, pico de gallo, salsa ranchero, avocado, aioli, black bean and corn salsa.