By Tanner Kent
---- — MANKATO -- Dana Elliott has given interviews about food all over the country.
As a seven-year "seasoned" veteran of the Taste of Home Cooking School -- as the Indianapolis chef expert wittily characterizes herself -- Elliott delivers simple, easy-to-learn, family-style recipes to audiences all over the country on behalf of Taste of Home. As such, she spends a good share of her time helping to promote the events by speaking with newspapers, media stations and anxious foodies in advance of Cooking School events.
But in Mankato's case, it's not the local cuisine that has Elliott excited to visit the Minnesota River Valley for the first time.
"I'm super stoked about coming to Mankato," Elliott said. "I've never been there, but I feel like already know it from reading 'Little House on the Prairie' when I was little. I'm excited to be in a place I grew up with but have yet to discover in person."
Discovery will be on the menu, then, for both Elliott and her audience when she leads the Taste of Home Cooking School event on May 21 at Verizon Wireless Center. The event is sponsored by The Free Press Media.
Every year, more than 300 Cooking School events attract upward of 300,000 people. With cooking demonstrations by the Taste of Home team, attendees learn seasonal recipes that are manageable for every skill level. Like all Taste of Home recipes, these recipes were shared by people who cook at home as a way to bring family and friends together, and can be made with readily available ingredients.
Those in attendance learn tips and tricks that will help save time and make the most of every cooking experience. In addition, everyone goes home with a gift bag valued at more than $50.
"I don't know anybody who knows everything about cooking," Elliott said. "A lot of times, we're all learning something at the same time."
The event will include step-by-step demonstrations of 10 different recipes. All have have been tested in Taste of Home kitchens and are among the 40,000 recipes submitted annually by readers and published in its magazines and cookbooks.
Elliott said the recipes are meant to strip away the intimidation factor of high cuisine and inspire everyday home chefs to approach cooking in new and exciting ways.
For instance, the Pineapple Upside-Down Cupcakes put a fresh, contemporary spin on a traditional dessert and have quickly become a favorite among Taste of Home audiences around the country. And the recipe for Italian Sausage Pot Stickers demonstrates how seemingly unmakeable, restaurant-type foods can be made rather easily at home.
"A lot of people order pot stickers at a restaurant, but in the back of their mind they're thinking, 'Oh, I could never make these,'" Elliott said. "But actually, they are much easier than they look."
Elliott said the Taste of Home mission is especially relevant now as the food industry continues to evolve.
She said that people are eating out less, planning family meals more often and focusing more and more on fresh, local produce.
"What I truly think is the biggest trend is that more people are cooking at home," she said. "Here at Taste of Home, we have a mantra: 'Cooking, caring and sharing.' And that's really what it's all about."
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 your favorite digital download device.
If You Go What Taste of Home Cooking School Where Verizon Wireless Center When May 21 Events - Preshow is 5-7 p.m. and includes more than 30 local vendors as well as coupons, samples and door prizes - Show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets General admission is $15. Tickets can be purchased in person at The Free Press, by calling 507-344-6395, at the Verizon Wireless Center box office, or at www.ticketmaster.com