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Cooking and Chef Recipes

Here you'll find recipes and tips from some of the best chefs in Central Florida, plus the fun and exceedingly user-friendly columns from the Divas of Dish, Pam Brandon and Anne-Marie Denicole.

Under the Tuscan Bun Ground Turkey, Chickpea and Spinach Burgers

Divas Tuscan bun

It's innate. The unchecked, primordial desire for a juicy, decadent burger, beckoning from the greasiest spoons to glam restaurants. An American addiction gone global, we yearn to make our habit a healthy one.

So consider this tasty morsel. The bold flavors of Tuscany, the healthful bennies of a Mediterranean diet: lean protein, fiber and antioxidants fashioned into a single patty--the Reader's Digest version of modern nutrition. Voila! A knockout burger with all the decadence of steamed broccoli, we can't get enough of this healthy stuff.

Posana Kale Salad

Kale salad

September is the most sultry time of summer: muggy, hot days, even if the calendar officially says autumn starts on Sept. 23. The divas like to stay out of the kitchen and escape to someplace cool, and this year our getaway was to Asheville, N.C., where you can splash in icy mountain water at places like Sliding Rock and Skinny Dip Falls. Ahhhhh!

We kicked back in high style at the gorgeous Inn at Biltmore, tucked back in the astounding 8,000 acres of the Biltmore Estate, relaxing in Adirondack chairs on blissfully cool morning and evenings with soothing views of Mount Pisgah in the distance.

Forays into town for supper (Forbes magazine named Asheville one of the Top 5 "secret foodie" cities in the U.S.) were rewarded with remarkable tastes like this kale salad at elegant Posana Cafe, where every dish is gluten free, and Chef Peter Pollay appreciates his local farmers.

Summer Salad with Tofu from the Divas of Dish

Divas tofu salad

Summer's heat has settled in, so the divas don't bother turning on the stove when we can trump up a cool, satisfying supper. And we're not talking about a bowl of lettuce, but a dish that satisfies the craving for sweet, salty and crunchy, plus adds a punch of protein.
We use firm tofu, but you can always substitute shredded deli rotisserie chicken if you prefer.
Pour a cool Riesling and you've got an easy dinner with minimal prep and maximum time for floating in the pool.

Summer Salad With Tofu
Serves 4

2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon garlic-chile paste
1 teaspoon honey
7-ounce package firm tofu, sliced into matchsticks
1 small head broccoli, trimmed and sliced finely on mandoline
1 cup shredded carrots
4 radishes, thinly sliced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 serrano pepper, seeded and minced (optional)
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
Coarse salt, to taste

Mix together sesame oil, rice vinegar, balsamic vinegar, chili paste and honey in the bottom of a bowl large enough for salad.

Add remaining ingredients and gently toss. Season with salt.

Diva confession: If you don't own a mandoline slicer, you missing a super-easy way to create thinly sliced veggies with precision and ease. You can buy inexpensive versions at most kitchen supply stores.

Cool-as-Cucumber Lemonade

Divas Lemonade

Cucumber vodka: How could the divas resist? Amidst myriad flavored vodkas, there it stood. The result? A refreshing, ultra-skinny cocktail to knock our muumuus off.

A hard lemonade with a soft side, this dreamy little number is like a margarita without all the puckering. Fresh mint, mixed and mashed a bit in the cocktail, gives the drink just the right amount of edge, while chilled sparkling water keeps everyone hydrated. The perfect, skinny summer sipper to serve beachside, poolside--or just front porch-side.

Is it five o'clock yet?

Cool-as-Cucumber Lemonade
Makes 1 cocktail

Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon agave nectar
6 or 7 fresh mint leaves
1 shot cucumber vodka
Sparkling water, to taste
4 or 5 slices seedless cucumber

Juice the lemon and pour into cocktail glass. Drizzle in agave and add mint. Using a pestle or large spoon, mix and mash the mint into the juice and agave. Add ice, vodka and sparkling water, to taste. Stir in cucumber slices and serve immediately.

Diva Confession: Sip this summer refresher sans the alcohol, adding a bit of fresh squeezed cucumber juice to replace the flavored vodka.

Chill and Be Chili Watermelon and Jalapeno Salad

Divas watermelon

It's the perfect sweet/hot side for your backyard barbeque, think girl-next-door charm with just right amount of edge. We can't resist this chill and be chili watermelon salad. At once ice cold and smokin' hot, the dish is a simple concoction of complex yum with gorgeous summer color.

Bridging the gap between cooling salad and the refreshingly unexpected dessert, you can make it your own with finely diced cucumber, crumbled cotija cheese or a smattering of sliced kalamata olives. Fresh mint is our herbaceous pick for this dish, but minced fresh basil or cilantro are also delish.


  • Divas of Dish
    After creating countless thank-you feasts for their children’s elementary school teachers, Anne-Marie Hodges and Pam Brandon began compiling recipes and tips, and created their cookbook in 2004, Culinary Confessions of the PTA Divas:  Stylish Recipes and Saucy Secrets for the Everyday Gourmet was born in 2004.  Along with delicious recipes, the book is a tale of food and friendship that began with a grass-roots crusade to uplift the status of dedicated teachers at Hillcrest Elementary in downtown Orlando.

    Since the debut of the cookbook, Anne-Marie has married and moved to Phoenix (now Anne-Marie Denicole), and Pam, a resident of Winter Park, has written two cookbooks for Disney Publishing (Delicious Disney and Delicious Disney Desserts) and has a third Disney cookbook that will be in bookstores in 2010.
    The cookbook is available on amazon.com, or, for an autographed copy, e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
  • Chef recipes
    Chef recipes
Wednesday, 1st October 2014

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