Tuesday, July 22, 2014

HGTV Hosts Then & Now

My man, Pat Simpson.
I've been watching HGTV pretty much forever. But my first real obsession was Before & After, a home remodeling show that I watched every Sunday night with my mom. The host was Pat Simpson, a distinctly normal-looking guy, complete with a hard-to-miss set of bags under his eyes. That didn't stop me from stalking him, though: I had my parents take me to a home show where he was speaking. That was only the beginning of my HGTV addiction.

Since the days of Pat Simpson, the HGTV stars have undergone quite a transformation: The "regular folk" vibe of the hosts has all but disappeared, as talent that could be mistaken for celebrities have taken their place. 

Then: Joan Steffend, host of Decorating Cents 

Now: Sabrina Soto, host of Real Estate Intervention

Then: Clive Owens and Lisa LaPorta, hosts of Designed to Sell

Now: Jamie Durie, host of The Outdoor Room

Okay, I'm pretty sure his show has been canceled, but he's simply too studly not to include. Consider this my petition for his return. 

Then: Chris Harrison, host of Designer's Challenge

Chris Harrison isn't exactly a "normal" guy, but I had to throw him in the mix, because I find it hilarious that the host of The Bachelor used to be on HGTV! (Poor guy can't seem to get a manly gig.) 

Now: Chris Lambton, host of Going Yard


Apparently, we've gone from Bachelor host to an actual former Bachelorette contestant. 

Then: Michael Payne, host of Designing for the Sexes


Now: Drew Scott, host of Property Brothers

Then: Suzanne Whang, host of "House Hunters"

Now: Nicole Curtis, host of Rehab Addict

Then: Sandra Betzina, host of Sew Perfect

Now: Emily Henderson, host of Secrets from a Stylist 


Monday, July 14, 2014

5 Country Cooking Secrets from Cracker Barrel

Hashbrown Casserole

This is the restaurant's most popular sideand now it can be your family's favorite at home: Use colby cheese, instead of cheddar, in your hashbrown casserole, which one former Cracker Barrel employee says more closely mimics the actual recipe. Combine all of the ingredients the day before (taking the potatoes straight from the freezer, instead of letting them thaw), then cover and refrigerate the uncooked casserole over night. Finally, use a large spoon to place dollops of the mixture into a greased pan, rather than patting it down firmly with your hand. 

Want a recipe? The person who submitted this one claims her parents acquired it while working on a Cracker Barrel training video. Worth a try, right? 

One Cracker Barrel cook says the secret to the pillowy little biscuits is simplicity: White Lily self-rising flour (2 cups), buttermilk (2/3 cup), shortening (1/3 cup), and nothing more. Combine the flour and shortening, add the buttermilk, and mix for one minute; roll 'em out, cut 'em into circles, and bake for  8 minutes at 450° F. While they're hot, brush your biscuits with melted butter. An awesome quote from the Cracker Barrel employee who leaked this recipe: "That's how I do it, and cannot say if that's how I also do it at work." Sounds like a guilty conscience to me. 

Instead of using standard breadcrumbs in your meatloaf, crumble up homemade buttermilk biscuits, which employees say is the key to a Cracker Barrel-like loaf. 

Fried Apples
You'll find bacon drippings in most copycat recipes for Cracker Barrel's fried apples, but at least one employee says that addition isn't actually a part of the recipe. 

The pancake mix for sale in the country store is likely the same stuff used in the kitchen: One former worker says the chefs just use a mix (which has an unusual ingredient: rye flour), to which they add water, wait 10 minutes for the batter to rise, and then whisk until smooth. The ideal temperature for your griddle: 400° F