Talk Food Festival: Melissa d'Arabian

Posted on Oct 2, 2013 10:45am

Melissa d'Arabian returned to THE TALK to discuss her new Food Network web series "The Picky Eaters Project". She also shared some strategies on how to expand children's palates and showed the ladies how to make her Family Friendly Mac and Cheese with a Toppings Bar. Here are the recipes.


Family-Friendly Mac and Cheese with Toppings Bar

Recipe courtesy Melissa d'Arabian


Serves 10 as a side; 6 as a main, with leftovers

preparation time: 25 minutes

Total cooking time: 40 minutes


Nonstick cooking spray

1 (1 pound) box whole grain penne pasta

2 cups low-fat milk

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

Dash of cayenne pepper

3/4 cup chicken stock

1 teaspoon salt

1 slice American cheese, torn into small pieces

3 tablespoons low-fat cream cheese

1/4 cup grated Swiss cheese

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Liberally spray a 3-quart casserole dish with nonstick vegetable oil spray and set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add penne and cook according to package instructions until the pasta is al dente (use the lower minute number in the range given on the package). Drain and return to pot.

Warm milk in microwave. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft and just golden, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and cook another minute. Stir in flour, paprika, and cayenne and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Slowly whisk in the warm milk. Add chicken stock, and cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the sauce is thick and coats the back of a spoon, 8 to 10 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Stir in a teaspoon of salt, American cheese, and cream cheese. Once the cream cheese  melts, mix in Swiss cheese, mustard and in 1/2 cup of cheddar. Stir the sauce into the penne and transfer to the prepared baking dish. Top with remaining 1/2 cup cheddar. Bake until top is golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Serve warm with a couple (or more!) of toppings.  

Toppings Bar: Pick and choose from these easy options. Include some familiar toppings each time to encourage kids to enjoy and explore the toppings bar.


  • mild green salsa

  • plain greek yogurt

  • shredded roasted chicken

  • steamed peas

  • crumbled blue cheese

  • sliced shallots sautéed until soft in a splash of olive oil

  • sliced mushrooms sautéed in olive oil with garlic and squeeze of lemon

  • halved roma tomatoes roasted 90 minutes at 275

  • crisp turkey bacon, chopped

  • chopped spinach steam sautéed with a splash of chicken stock, olive oil and garlic


Orange Carrot Soup

Reprinted from the book Ten Dollar Dinners. Copyright © 2012 by Melissa d'Arabian.  Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House, Inc.


Serves 4

Preparation time: 20 minutes (plus 5 minutes to cool)

Cooking time: 35 minutes


1 tablespoon olive oil

5 carrots (3/4 pound), chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

1 yellow onion, roughly chopped

1 garlic clove, smashed

2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth

2 cups water

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 tablespoons sour cream


Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the carrots and onion and cook until they begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, orange zest, and oregano and cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Raise the heat to medium-high and stir in the wine.

Pour in the broth and water, bring to a boil, and reduce to a gentle simmer. Cook until the carrots are tender, about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and cool 5 minutes.

Transfer the soup to a food processor or blender and blend until smooth (don't fill either a blender or food processor more than two thirds full; work in batches if necessary).

Return to the saucepan and season with the salt and pepper. Serve swirled with a heaping teaspoon of sour cream.

Crispy Kale Chips

Reprinted from the book Ten Dollar Dinners. Copyright © 2012 by Melissa d'Arabian.  Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House, Inc.

Kale has long been one of my favorite winter greens; it's just so darned cheap! I love it sautéed, braised, or chopped into Kale and Crispy Bacon Salad. In this recipe, I toss it with some olive oil and salt and then bake the leaves until they're crisp and brittle, creating wonderfully tasty and healthy veggie chips. My husband, kids, and I love snacking on these, and since kale is so good for you, you can feel good about eating more than your fair share.

Serves 4

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Bunch of kale, washed and thoroughly dried
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt or sea salt

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.

Place the kale leaves on a cutting board and remove the tough ribs so you end up with 2 long and slender leaves for each single original leaf. Stack the leaves into 2 piles and slice each pile crosswise into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Place them on a rimmed baking sheet in an even layer so the kale doesn't overlap. Drizzle with the olive oil, add a generous pinch of salt (take care not to oversalt; the kale shrinks as it bakes and the salt will concentrate), toss to combine, and then rearrange in an even layer.

Bake the kale leaves until they are crisp, about 20 minutes, turning them over halfway through cooking. Remove from the oven, transfer to a large bowl, and serve.


Black Bean Brownies

Reprinted from the book Ten Dollar Dinners. Copyright © 2012 by Melissa d'Arabian.  Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House, Inc.


Makes 12 brownies

Preparation time: 20 minutes (plus 15 minutes to cool)

Cooking time: 20 minutes


1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2  teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup cooked black beans

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs

1/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon instant coffee or espresso

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Confectioners' sugar, for dusting


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch square baking dish with the butter and set aside. Place 1/4 cup of the chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl and microwave in 30-second increments, stirring after each, until the chocolate is melted.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl and set aside. Purée the beans with the oil in a blender. Add the eggs, cocoa, granulated sugar, coffee, vanilla, and melted chocolate and purée until smooth. Add the flour mixture and pulse just until incorporated. Scrape the mixture into a medium bowl and stir in the remaining 1/4 cup chocolate chips. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake until the surface is somewhat matte around the edges and still glossy in the center, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing into 12 squares. Dust with confectioners' sugar and serve.

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