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Mormon 'Food Network' star's new cookbook teaches kitchen essentials

Published: Monday, Feb. 24 2014 8:00 a.m. MST

Kelsey Nixon, a BYU graduate, has recently released a new cookbook titled "Kitchen Confidence: Essential Recipes and Tips That Will Help You Cook Anything."

The Cooking Channel

MURRAY — Kelsey Nixon, star of "Kelsey's Essentials" on Food Network and Cooking Channel, lives in New York City with her husband and understands that it can be difficult to juggle married life in the big city with a job and a desire to cook.

She summed it up in a word: “Perspective.”

“I think that my best tip (for busy parents) would be to step back and take a look at the big picture every now and then," said Nixon, who was at Orson Gygi recently. "I tend to, just like any other busy parent, really beat myself up easily for a bad day every now and then and, thankfully, I’ve got a husband who’s very good at examining that big picture and reminding me that, in five years, this probably won’t matter.”

The 29-year-old Brigham Young University include tips for home cooks that she's picked up during her cooking journey in her recently released a cookbook "Kitchen Confidence: Essential Recipes and Tips That Will Help You Cook Anything" (Clarkson Potter, $19.99), which was released Feb. 11.

The cookbook and serves as a companion to Nixon’s cooking show, breaks recipes down into simple steps that can be easily followed by cooks at any level of expertise.

“If you’re just starting in the kitchen, these recipes are easy enough for you,” the Nixon told the Deseret News. “But if you’ve been in the kitchen, they’re also interesting and you haven’t seen them before.

“My lasagna (page 136) has butternut squash and parsnips in it,” she continued. “You have probably never had lasagna with those ingredients in it before, but it’s still familiar to you, so it doesn’t feel like you’re stepping too far outside of the box. The idea is that it satisfies both cooks — someone who is just starting and someone who has been cooking for years.”

In addition to unique recipes, Nixon also gives tips, tools and techniques that she believes every home cook needs.

“Whether you’re stepping into the kitchen for the first time or you’ve been in the kitchen for years, the goal is that there’s something in this book for everyone,” Nixon said.

The cookbook includes a hundred recipes, ranging from breakfast foods to main courses and, of course, a few desserts, as well.

“The idea is that it’s filled with recipes that I think every home cook should have in their back pocket — things like roast chicken and chocolate chip cookies and mashed potatoes,” Nixon said. “But I’ve taken all of those essential or basic recipes and kind of elevated them to the ‘2.0 level,’ if you will. By changing just a few ingredients, you can totally create a new dish.”

A few of Nixon’s favorite recipes include lemon-scented chicken thighs (page 120); a bacon, cheddar and chives biscuit (page 32); and her Essential Yellow Birthday Cake (the final recipe in the book), which she referred to as the grand finale.

Nixon developed a love for cooking early in her life.

“As a teenager," she said. "I really started helping my mom out in the kitchen. But it was when I went to college and stopped having my mom’s home-cooked meals that I really started to develop a passion for cooking and I was forced to cook on my own and realized how much I loved it.”

Nixon attributes her success as a cook to her time as an intern for “Martha Stewart Living” and a cooking show that she hosted while attending Brigham Young University.

“There’s no book that tells you how to become a cooking show host, but through mentorships and connections made with internships, all of those things really kind of paved the way for opportunities to present themselves — and they did," she said. "It’s been lots of hard work paired with lots of good luck.”

Lasagna with Sausage and Butternut Squash

Serves: 10 to 12

Preparation: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 1 hour

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

1 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed

1 large yellow onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 (1½-pound) butternut squash, cut into ½-inch dice (about 2½ cups)

¾ cup shredded parsnips

Kosher salt and cracked black pepper

2 (15-ounce) containers part-skim ricotta

2 large eggs

1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn

6 cups store-bought or homemade tomato sauce

1 (8-ounce) package no-boil lasagna noodles

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

2. In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until browned throughout, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to a paper towel–lined plate.

3. Add the onion and garlic to the pan, adding extra oil, if needed. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the butternut squash and parsnips and cook until the vegetables are tender, 8 to 10 minutes. If the squash and parsnips start to stick to the pan, add 1 tablespoon water. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove the pan from the heat and pour off any excess liquid. Stir in the reserved cooked sausage.

4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the ricotta, eggs, spinach, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper.

5. In a separate bowl, combine the mozzarella, Parmesan, and basil.

6. Spread one-third of the tomato sauce in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Arrange a layer of lasagna noodles on top. Evenly distribute one-third of the ricotta mixture over the noodles, followed by one-third of the vegetable-sausage mixture. Then sprinkle with one-third of the shredded cheese mixture. Repeat to make two more layers, ending with shredded cheese mixture on top. (The assembled lasagna can be kept tightly covered in foil in the refrigerator up to 1 day before baking.)

7. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until the top is golden brown, about 15 minutes. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Veggie Lasagna variation: Prepare the lasagna recipe without the Italian sausage. Cut 1 medium eggplant and 1 medium zucchini into ½-inch dice. After the butternut squash and parsnips have been cooking for 5 minutes, stir in the eggplant and zucchini. Continue cooking for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

"Kitchen Confidence: Essential Recipes and Tips That Will Help You Cook Anything" by Kelsey Nixon

Email: achristensen@deseretnews.com

Twitter: atownmania

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